Book Review: The Antidote, Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking

Book Review: The Antidote, Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking

antidote bookI’ve been doing a lot of reading in the last few months for work and pleasure.  One of my favorites during this time was The Antidote, Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman, which was published in 2012.

It is one of the funniest self-help books that I’ve ever read. Even though I am an advocate of positive thinking, I found myself enjoying Burkeman’s often wacky alternative strategies for finding happiness.

Here’s are a few excerpts to give a sense of Burkeman’s style and thinking:

  • The negative path to happiness is not an argument for bloody-minded contrarianism at all costs: you don’t do yourself favours by walking into the path of oncoming buses, say, rather than avoiding them.
  • One of the worst things about being a motivational speaker, or any other kind of advocate for the power of positive thinking, must be the constant pressure to seem upbeat: if anyone ever catches you scowling, or stressed, or feeling sorry for yourself — all very normal occurrences for anybody, of course — it threatens to undermine everything you stand for.  Becoming an advocate for the power of negative thinking, as I gradually did, holds no such hazard. Bad moods are permitted.

Burkeman reviews techniques from stoicism to Buddhism to the hidden benefits of insecurity.  I liked this book very much because not only did he offer some alternatives to being in a constant pursuit of happiness, he made me laugh as he described his attempts to follow the negative path to happiness.

If you ever need a break from too much positive thinking, you might enjoy The Antidote as much as I did.

Today’s Contemplation:

Have you ever found greater peace and contentment with negative thinking than forcing yourself to think positively?

10 thoughts on “Book Review: The Antidote, Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking

  1. Thank you for this book review, Karen. I too believe in positive thinking but not to the point where it stops being critical thinking. This book looks like it is a useful counter point to those that believe that just by thinking positively we can overcome any obstacle.


  2. I can slip into negative states of mind, but I do try to find ways to be positive. and I’ve gotten pretty good at it, but I think it’s also good to feel normal human emotions. Cry when your sad, if your mad and angry, let it energize you into fixing whats made you so upset. As long as you don’t linger in one bad emotion for to long, or let it get in the way of other people.


    1. I find that feeling the “negative” emotions keeps my heart clean and honest. I also feel that life is meant to be a gift to us, and it helps if we can remember that. Aaron, thanks for sharing your approach.


  3. What helps me is this quote: “Be content, but not satisfied”. It lets me accept where I am at the moment and still work to create a better life (and self). No pressure, just growth. I’ll be looking for this book; thanks for the recommendation. ~ Linne


  4. This sounds like a good read! I tend to think of Positive Thinking as a toolbox of techniques, rather than a permanent way of thinking. We have negative emotions for a reason, and to deny them isn’t helpful for us in the long-term.


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