New book from Ridgefielder encourages the pursuit of contentment: ‘This Book Won't Make You Happy’

Photo of Alyssa Seidman

Niro Feliciano has been speaking publicly for the past 15 years, but there was one topic in particular that gained the most feedback, she said.

In 2017, Feliciano, a therapist from Ridgefield with a practice in Wilton, addressed a room of 600 women and talked about finding contentment at Christmas. She described how people tend to get caught up during this season — a time we’re supposed to enjoy — leaving them feeling exhausted and unfulfilled by New Year’s.

“It’s a small snapshot of what we experience in our whole lives,” Feliciano said.

In her first work “This Book Won't Make You Happy,” Feliciano provides a path to something more satisfying than happiness: contentment. The text offers practices to help readers feel calmer, de-stress and shift their perspective to appreciate the good that’s already around them.

The author will provide a deep dive into what it means to achieve contentment during an event at The Ridgefield Playhouse at 7 p.m. April 19. The evening will be hosted by stand-up comedian and former Saturday Night Live writer Tim Washer and feature a performance from the Ridgefield High School dance team.

A percentage of all book sales and ticket proceeds will go to Kids in Crisis. The organization provides emergency shelter, crisis counseling and community education programs for children of all ages and families facing crisis.

Feliciano grew up in Danbury and is the daughter of two physicians. She has lived in Ridgefield for more than 10 years and is a mother of four. She is the co-founder and co-director of Integrative Counseling and Wellness Group in Wilton, which specializes in a range of wellness issues.

Feliciano spoke with Hearst Connecticut Media ahead of the Playhouse event.

Question: What inspired you to write this book?

Feliciano: In 2017 I did a talk for 600 women on ... finding contentment. … A lot of people related to that message, which made me think this could actually become a book. … I got to a point around 2019 where I was feeling overwhelmed with life myself, … (so) I cut my practice down in half and began something new. I wrote a book proposal based on that talk … (and) serendipitously an acquisition editor from a publisher reached out.

Question: The title is arguably a jarring one. Why was it important to set readers’ expectations from the jump?

Feliciano: Our cultural definition of happiness … (is) based on achievement and acquisition, and that is what many therapists believe is causing us more stress, anxiety and depression. The pursuit of happiness has gotten extreme. The busyness has left us exhausted and disconnected from each other, (so) we don’t have time for … the practices that bring us true contentment.

Question: What are the key differences between happiness and contentment? Why is the latter easier to achieve?

Feliciano: Actually the latter is harder (to achieve) because of the way we’ve been culturally socialized. As humans we have this need for acceptance and validation, (which we’ve) come to understand (is) based on our achievements.

If happiness is having everything you want, contentment is wanting everything you have. … In the culture we live in it’s a learned practice because there’s so many factors that lead us away from contentment that have become normalized.

Question: The past two years have no doubt taken a considerable toll on our collective psyche. Did the pandemic have any effect on the tone of the book?

Feliciano: It did. I worked through the whole pandemic (and used practices) with my clients to (help them) feel grounded, calm, peaceful and appreciate what they still had amidst a time (where) they lost a lot. These practices are included in the book

If you think about what causes stress and anxiety, some of the strongest triggers are psychological and emotional: uncertainty, lack of information, loss, lack of control.

Over an extended period of time it creates a dysregulation of your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight). What these practices do is interrupt that cycle and enable somebody to … regulate themselves and reset.

Question: Is there a tid-bit you can share from the book that may peak readers’ interest to pick up a copy?

Feliciano: I titled the second chapter “Crazy,” (which is) a word therapists don’t throw around … lightly. It’s how I feel sometimes about my own life, especially living in Fairfield County. … It’s so surprising to me how many people have connected to that chapter — they’ve told me that they’ve laughed and cried by page 10. … You have to laugh at life sometimes, otherwise it can get very heavy.

Question: Why should people attend your upcoming event at the Playhouse?

Feliciano: There’s so much around us that is good, but we’re just too busy to make time for it and pay attention to it, so I invited people who will make (the audience) happy. I wanted this also to be youth-focused … because the pandemic of anxiety in young people is tremendous. We don’t have enough therapists to cover the need for youth right now.

Question: Anything else you’d like to add.

Feliciano: The most important thing that I want people to know is that (when) we look back on what makes a fulfilled life, (it’s) in not those big things that we strive for. Did you love the people around you well and make the most of the day to day? I don’t want people to wait until the end of their life to begin that process — it’s something we can do now.

For more information or to purchase tickets, call the box office at 203-438-5795 or visit