Monday, December 29, 2008

Review: Happiness

Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth is one of the several spate of books to come out about happiness in the past year or two. If you want a video guide, here's professor Sonja Lyubomirsky walking through her book, The How of Happiness:

The idea is that instead of researching unhappy people, psychology can make progress examining positive examples of well-functioning humans as well. As someone who's always been a happy person since his teenage years were over, I was curious as to what the literature and research shows.

Well, I was disappointed. The book is full of aphorisms and generalizations like:
  • Higher income makes people more happy, on average, but only for the kinds of problems that money can solve for you. DUH!
  • Being religious makes people more happy, unless you're not in the United States, an unusually religious country where being religious might help you become more socially accepted. What about the other countries? No details are provided.
  • You have a happiness set point that you tend to return to throughout your life. Except that it might be possible to change that. No word on how to go about it is provided.
  • Being extremely happy can actually cause you to die earlier, because you tend to brush off problems and issues that you really need to go to a doctor about. How happy are such people? Are they permanently on drugs?
In any case, I think I got more out of the typical Wall Street Journal column on happiness (e.g., trading a short commute for a bigger house is never a good move) than out of this book. It's not as though most of us are so insensible about our lives and ourselves that we need someone to tell us that money isn't everything (it sure isn't, but it does grease the skids quite a bit!).

In general, not worth your time. Watch Sonja's video instead, or read her book instead.
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