Lee Crutchley brings forth a fun, interactive, and empowering self-help book that helps you find comfort through the use of creative and engaging workbook exercises. Through these exercises, you inadvertently learn more about yourself and more about what ultimately makes you happier, and it forces you to take control of your thoughts and emotions. Crutchley offers a truthful point of view that happiness is not an instant change or constant, but that there are days where you will feel sad, and that it’s okay to feel that way. The questions help you answer and focus on more positive aspects of your life and steer you into the direction of happier living. As the title of the book suggests, it can help you feel happy or at the very least make you feel less sad.
It’s refreshing to pick up a book that targets the improvement of one’s happiness and doesn't promise to be an immediate life altering experience, but that it will (at the very least) make you less sad. It is a very genuine and realistic approach to start off small and work towards your happiness. What was your first step to becoming less sad?
Starting a daily diary was the first positive step that I can remember taking. I wrote about everything I was thinking and feeling, as well as the events of my day. That really helped me to notice patterns in my thoughts and emotions, especially the negative patterns. Writing those thoughts and feelings down each day felt like I was getting them out of my head, which enabled me to look at them from a more rational and detached perspective.
If happiness can be placed on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the most happy and 1 being the least, where would you place yourself on the happiness scale presently? Does it ever change?
At the moment I’m around a 6, but happiness is incredibly fluid, like all emotions. My happiness rating is constantly fluctuating throughout the day.
You’ve created a workbook for people to come up with their own answers to make them happier. I think this is a genius way for people to dedicate more time to learning more about themselves. It forces people to reflect on the positive things in their life rather than on the negative. Can you tell us more about your goals for the workbook?
I think your question actually contains a lot of the main goals I had for the book. The only person who can ever truly know what makes you happy is you, even though it can be incredibly hard to realise that when you’re depressed. So that was my main aim for the book really, I wanted it to help people realise that no book can tell them the secret formula for happiness. But also, that they have all the tools they need already within them, they just need to dig around and find them.
You have another book with a similar creative workbook style, titled “The Art of Getting Started”. Where did the inspiration for these workbooks get started? How did you come up with each theme?
The themes both came from personal experiences. I’ve struggled with procrastination and fear of failure for as long as I can remember, and I’ve suffered with depression on and off since I was a teenager. The idea for the workbook style approach was almost a rebellion against the self-help books I’d read. I’ve read a lot of them in the last few years, and very few of them actually helped me to help myself — and it feels like that should be the main purpose of a self-help book. So I set out to make self-help books that actually function as self-help books.
I’ve found that I’ve learned a lot about myself from filling out the sheets and was quite surprised by my answers. Did you find that you learned a lot about yourself by filling out this workbook? Did anything surprise you? Please share.
I always felt like I was a pretty self-aware person, but I still learned so much about myself while working on this book. The biggest thing I learned was about my negative thinking patterns. I always knew I was prone to negative thoughts, but being able to recognize definite labels such as “emotional reasoning” and “black and white thinking” was a massive help to me. Another big thing I learned is that I actually know what makes me happy, and before I started working on this book I was certain I had no idea.
What is most rewarding to you about this workbook?
When you’re feeling down happiness can seem an impossibly long way off, and doing anything at all can feel like so much effort. But working through a few pages in this book — even the simplest tasks — can help you to feel more pro-active, and realise that you can take control of your own happiness.
What is your favourite exercise in the book?
The exercise that asks you to imagine you are 90 years old, and then write two lists. The first titled “I wish I had spent more time on”, the second titled “I wish I had spent less time on”. It seems like such a simple exercise, but if you put a lot of thought into your lists it can be incredibly powerful.
You’ve expressed how you yourself are a fellow sufferer of depression. In addition to the written exercises within the book, what else do you do to conquer these feelings?
I do so many tiny things that it’s hard to list them all, and I think that’s what I hope people take away from the book. The more things you can do to conquer those feelings, the better chance you have of actually achieving that. There is no quick fix or magic list for happiness, you have to continually work at it and continually try.
What has been your hardest struggle in life? How did you overcome it?
The hardest thing I’ve ever had to face was my dad dying when I was 20 years old, but I think that’s one of those things that I will never truly overcome. I’ve just learned to deal with it better. I don’t think I did anything special to help me achieve that, I just had to try and keep going as best I could.
What is the best piece of advice someone has ever given you? Did you act on it?
I get asked this question quite a lot, and my answer always seems to change depending on how I’m feeling at the time. Right now the best piece of advice I can think of is from this exchange in the movie Lost in Translation:
Charlotte: I just don’t know what I’m supposed to be.
Bob: You’ll figure that out. The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.
I used to get so worked up about what I was, what I wanted to be, and what label I gave myself. But the older I get, the more I realise that it’s not the label that matters, it’s the contents.
What makes you most happy?
Making other people happy.
*Bonus* Please share an interesting fact about the workbook.
I originally wanted to call the book “Have You Tried Being Less Sad?”.