Dan Brook, Ph.D. ’97, tackles an important new subject in his latest book: Happiness. A professor in the Department of Interdisciplinary Sociology and Social Sciences at San Jose State University, his previous books and lectures range from climate change and travel to haiku and American politics. His new book, Hosting Happiness: 101 Ways To Be Happy (Beacon, 2021), offers tips for living a happier, healthier life. Here he shares his inspiration for the book and what makes him happy these days.
What inspired you to write Host happiness?
I love to write about what interests me and I am passionate about being happy. I took online happiness courses through UC Berkeley and Yale University, as well as a mindfulness course through Leiden University. Part of how I deal with material is writing about it. My books always start with an audience of one.
Is the subject of this book related to your research in the field of sociology?
All advice is scientific, but also personal. Although they do not relate directly to my sociological research, they do so indirectly. I wrote on [the health care proposal] Medicare for All, raising the minimum wage, housing the homeless, reversing our climate crisis, and plant-based eating – each of these can make us happier and healthier. I also write poetry and short fiction as well as a recent book on the nature of haiku and the concept of called nothing. Sweet nothing (Editions Hécate, 2020). My interests are eclectic.
Having been published during the pandemic, how do you expect your readers to apply your advice to their lives during such a stressful time?
It’s always a good time to deal with stress, learn new skills, and find ways to be happy. Even if Host happiness could be particularly useful during a pandemic, these tips are for all times. Not all of the tips are necessarily for everyone, but there are many that everyone can find that would be useful, interesting, and beneficial.
What makes you happy?
So many things make me happy because I choose to be happy, using different tips for different situations. Sometimes I employ gratitude, sometimes forgiveness, self-compassion, focusing on the positive, changing my perspective, imitating those I respect, just smiling or acknowledging the absurdity of the situation. As we all know, life can be nonsense! It also makes me happy when I imagine myself on campus.
Besides living happier lives, what do you hope your readers will get from reading? Host happiness?
It’s a big aside! I really want people to be happier. And on top of that, I want people to learn more and develop skills that could be useful for themselves and that they can easily teach others to have easier, better and more productive lives. This is how we empower ourselves and empower others.