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Self-help Happiness

Count Me In

How I Stepped Off the Sidelines, Created Connection, and Built a Fuller, Richer, More Lived-in Life

by (author) Emily White

McClelland & Stewart
Initial publish date
Aug 2016
Happiness, Personal Memoirs, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2016
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2015
    List Price

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Now available in paperback, a book that combines the intelligence of Quiet with the personal stories and realistic advice of The Happiness Project. Count Me In is for everyone who feels their life could use a little more real-life connection, at home, in their neighbourhoods, and in the wider world.

     A thoughtful, lively, and practical roadmap for anyone who wants to feel more connected, and who wants their life to feel bigger, more grounded, and true.
     Emily White's first, nationally bestselling book, Lonely: Learning to Live with Solitude, made her an international expert on loneliness as a distinct condition (not just part of depression or the result of social awkwardness), intensified by many of the hallmarks of modern life.
     Count Me In is a warm, readable combination of personal memoir and solid research framed as a "come with me" guide, as Emily looks both deeply into her own and her family's past and broadly into contemporary culture to discover the path to feeling more connected. She tackles home, neighbourhood, faith, and more, and brings an incisive, questioning mind as well as an open and willing heart to her quest. As a result Count Me In is a mix of practical advice and lived experience, a rich reading experience, and a practical tool for improving one's life.

About the author

Contributor Notes

EMILY WHITE is a research lawyer, university instructor, and freelance writer. Her award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared in The Guardian, Elle (UK), The Huffington Post, Adbusters, The Ecologist, Chatelaine, and The Journey Prize Stories. She lived for several years in St. John's, Newfoundland before returning to her native Toronto.

Excerpt: Count Me In: How I Stepped Off the Sidelines, Created Connection, and Built a Fuller, Richer, More Lived-in Life (by (author) Emily White)

Creating a Base for Belonging and Getting Past the Past

The mismatch between the way I felt at home and the way I felt I should feel at home was dizzying. If there had been something wrong with the apartment, I could have said, I can’t connect here because of the awful linoleum, the horrendous paint job, the total lack of light. As it was, I was living in a spacious, airy place that caught the sun all day long. My flat was on the top floor of an eighty-year-old house and featured the original walnut flooring, a beautiful built-in wardrobe, and dark woodwork around all the windows and doors. There was a huge deck off the kitchen that overlooked a park, and the apartment was arranged in the drawn-out style I like best, with a long hallway connecting the rooms and serving as a corridor for breezes that blew in from the back.

It was, all things considered, a find. The landlord, an older man with an undefined but clearly well-paying job in the arts, liked the idea of a writer in the house. There was some confusion about the rent – he’d posted two different prices on Craigslist – and when I pointed this out, he immediately went with the lower number. This meant the apartment wasn’t just spacious but also cheap, an almost impossible combination in downtown Toronto, where tenant bidding wars break out over places half the size of mine.

The fact that the apartment was so undeniably great was discouraging, because it made me think there might be something wrong with me. I just couldn’t feel any sense of home there. And this in turn made me wonder if there might be something more fundamentally off about me – that my inability to connect to home might be one aspect of a larger inability to connect at all.

Because home is the starting point for a sense of belonging. We tend to think of belonging as “out there,” woven into the world around us. And it is out there, but the way we feel at home can affect the energy and attitudes we bring to that larger world. Researchers at the  University of Maine created a clever experiment to test this point. The psychologists Sandra Sigmon and Stacy Whitcomb asked students  to walk into a room that had only some bare essentials in it: a sofa, an armchair, a coffee table. They then gave the students access to posters, cushions, plants, books, and vases, and told each student to take as much time as necessary decorating the space. After leaving the room, each student was given tests assessing anxiety, well-being, and social confidence. When the researchers compared the finished rooms with the test scores, they found that students who spent more time decorating, and who set out the most objects with care, rated higher in terms of positive mood, reduced stress, and increased social energy.

Sigmon and Whitcomb suggested that something called “psychological home” was serving as the link between setting out a vase of flowers and having more social ties. By this, they meant that the way we relate to our home environment serves as a template for how we relate to the larger environment: the more at home and in charge you feel in your house or apartment, the more at home and in charge you’ll feel outside of it. A separate study conducted at the University of Chicago came to the same conclusion. Polling over three hundred families, the sociologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Eugene Rochberg-Halton found that people who described their home environments as “warm” or “welcoming” were more likely to be out in the community, joining clubs or teams and attending neighbourhood events. People who described their homes as “cold” were much less likely to be part of school, sports, or neighbourhood groups, meaning – ironically – that it’s the people who feel least at home who have the hardest time leaving it.

Editorial Reviews

"A compelling and candid account of what it takes to feel a sense of belonging in the modern world, Count Me In reads like a graphic novel spelled out in words. It's not simply about where to live, what to buy, or the one person you love, White discovers, but about finding a way to join in without giving in. If you've ever wondered about where you fit in, this book will keep you awake at night, turning pages." Susan Pinker, author The Village Effect and The Sexual Paradox
"An incisive philosophical tract on our 'going-solo world,' and what we're losing with all of our emphasis on self-reliance over the support of others." The Globe and Mail

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