Book Review: The Happiness Hypothesis

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient WisdomThe Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Half autobiography, half psych 101 class. Haidt revisits all the psychology experiments you’ve already heard about and ties them together with snippets of philosophers, most of whom you’ve also already heard of, then talks about either being in college, teaching at college, or going to India (for research. for college.)

He’s a respectable social psychologist which is almost like being a scientist, and the book is written clearly and accessibly. There are conflicting schools of thought as to where happiness comes from. Obviously, money can’t buy it, or why would they keep saying “money can’t buy happiness” all the time? They must have gotten it from somewhere. Everybody wants it, nobody knows how to get it.

Haidt suggests it’s a sort of combination of coming from within and coming from without. You’ve got to cultivate your internal rock garden, if you’re Buddhist, or your inner citadel, if you’re more an Aurelius kind of guy. You’ve got to manage expectations and be grateful for what you’ve got. You’ve definitely got to drop that goddamn attitude, I’ll tell you that right now. Also, you’ve got to adopt a moral code and stick to it. You’ll feel better if you do. You’ll be living in accordance with your virtues, and in Current Year we don’t have codified morals or virtues, so nobody knows how to act and it makes them miserable and neurotic.

You’ve also got to stop working all the time and spend more of your time with family and friends. Family especially. You’ve got to make time for hobbies and live within your means, even if that requires you to adjust your stupid daydreams about Lamborghinis and cocaine to something a little cheaper, that could actually contribute to a sense of fulfillment. Waste your money on experiences, not things.

In theory, you follow these rules, as confirmed by both modern psychologists and long-dead Romans, and you should be able to land proper happiness for yourself. But remember. This is just a hypothesis.

See? Practically a scientist.

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