Practical Optimism: The Art, Science, and Practice of Exceptional Well-Being

Avery. Feb. 2024. 336p. ISBN 9780593418949. $29. SELF-HELP
Psychiatrist Varma aims to achieve more than simple stress reduction for readers: she wants them to find the resiliency they need to reconnect to their self-worth by unleashing their “natural strengths.” She discusses her own experiences with techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy and lays out foundational pillars that will engender a sense of practical optimism. These pillars are presented in an order that progressively addresses components of optimism, from setting an initial goal or vision to incorporating the principles into healthy habits. Using clients’ stories, Varma shows readers that most people haven’t figured out life, and she examines ways in which superficial accomplishments fail to bring happiness if they’re not part of a larger sense of values. Some acronyms and phrases seem a little too cute, but this may be a consequence of an author with a high level of clinical training writing for a more lay audience.
VERDICT As with any book that promises tools for finding purpose and meaning, this requires deep work, which sometimes feels like it was glossed over; still, the principles are sound and thought-provoking. For fans of authors like Martha Beck who are looking for additional clinically sound practices to explore.
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