The Happiness Hypothesis
The Happiness Hypothesis

The Happiness Hypothesis

To summarize the idea that our emotions, our reactions to events, and some mental illnesses are caused by the mental filters through which we look at the world, I could not say it any more concisely than Shakespeare: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” (Location 50)

Tags: favorite, mindset

Note: our mind determines whether an event is good or bad

“thinking makes it so.” (Or, as Buddha4 said, “Our life is the creation of our mind.”) (Location 71)

Tags: mindset

Note: Our life is the creation of our mind

Human thinking depends on metaphor. We understand new or complex things in relation to things we already know. (Location 133)

Tags: metaphor

Note: metaphors are key to understanding new concepts

Freud said that the mind is divided into three parts: the ego (the conscious, rational self); the superego (the conscience, a sometimes too rigid commitment to the rules of society); and the id (the desire for pleasure, lots of it, sooner rather than later). The metaphor I use when I lecture on Freud is to think of the mind as a horse and buggy (a Victorian chariot) in which the driver (the ego) struggles frantically to control a hungry, lustful, and disobedient horse (the id) while the driver’s father (the superego) sits in the back seat lecturing the driver on what he is doing wrong. (Location 151)

Human rationality depends critically on sophisticated emotionality. It is only because our emotional brains works so well that our reasoning can work at all. (Location 331)

It is no accident that we find the carnal pleasures so rewarding. Our brains, like rat brains, are wired so that food and sex give us little bursts of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that is the brain’s way of making us enjoy the activities that are good for the survival of our genes. (Location 398)

Note: We get bursts of dopamine when we engage in activities which are good for the survival of our genes - food & sex

These thinking skills are an aspect of emotional intelligence—an ability to understand and regulate one’s own feelings and desires.29 An emotionally intelligent person has a skilled rider who knows how to distract and coax the elephant without having to engage in a direct contest of wills. (Location 436)

Note: emotional intelligence - an ability to understand and regulate your emotions

It’s hard for the controlled system to beat the automatic system by willpower alone; like a tired muscle,30 the former soon wears down and caves in, but the latter runs automatically, effortlessly, and endlessly. (Location 439)

Tags: willpower

Note: when your willpower is depleted the automatic system is more prominent

Lady Philosophy tries several other reframing tactics.

She points out that his wife, sons, and father are each dearer to him than his own life, and all four still live. She helps him see that adverse fortune is more beneficial than good fortune; the latter only makes men greedy for more, but adversity makes them strong.

And she draws Boethius’s imagination far up into the heavens so that he can look down on the Earth and see it as a tiny speck on which even tinier people play out their comical and ultimately insignificant ambitions. (Location 555)

Tags: plato, favorite

Note: platos view

Some commonalities of animal life even create similarities across species that we might call design principles. One such principle is that bad is stronger than good. Responses to threats and unpleasantness are faster, stronger, and harder to inhibit than responses to opportunities and pleasures. (Location 626)

Note: humans response to threats is stronger than opportunities. its a defence mechanism

Once again, bad is stronger and faster than good. The elephant reacts before the rider even sees the snake on the path. Although you can tell yourself that you are not afraid of snakes, if your elephant fears them and rears up, you’ll still be thrown. (Location 665)

Note: we react faster to threats than to opportunities

For Buddha, attachments are like a game of roulette in which someone else spins the wheel and the game is rigged: The more you play, the more you lose. The only way to win is to step away from the table. And the only way to step away, to make yourself not react to the ups and downs of life, is to meditate and tame the mind. Although you give up the pleasures of winning, you also give up the larger pains of losing. (Location 767)

Tags: metaphor, desires, favorite

Note: Attachments are like a game of roulette in which someone else spins the wheel and the game is rigged. The more you play the more you lose.

I therefore question the widespread view that Prozac and other drugs in its class are overprescribed. It’s easy for those who did well in the cortical lottery to preach about the importance of hard work and the unnaturalness of chemical shortcuts. But for those who, through no fault of their own, ended up on the negative half of the affective style spectrum, Prozac is a way to compensate for the unfairness of the cortical lottery. (Location 891)

Note: Prozac is a way for those with genetically lower levels of happiness to increase their levels to those of others more fortunate

if the hippocampal theory of Prozac is correct, many people really do need a mechanical adjustment. It’s as though they had been driving for years with the emergency break halfway engaged, and it might be worth a five-week experiment to see what happens to their lives when the brake is released. Framed in this way, Prozac for the “worried well” is no longer just cosmetic. It is more like giving contact lenses to a person with poor but functional eyesight who has learned ways of coping with her limitations. Far from being a betrayal of that person’s “true self,” contact lenses can be a reasonable shortcut to proper functioning. (Location 896)

Suppose you were invited to play the “ultimatum” game, which economists invented16 to study the tension between fairness and greed. It goes like this: Two people come to the lab but never meet. The experimenter gives one of them—let’s suppose it’s not you—twenty one-dollar bills and asks her to divide them between the two of you in any way she likes. She then gives you an ultimatum: Take it or leave it. The catch is that if you leave it, if you say no, you both get nothing. If you were both perfectly rational, as most economists would predict, your partner would offer you one dollar, knowing that you’d prefer one dollar to no dollars, and you’d accept her offer, because she was right about you. But the economists were wrong about you both. In real life, nobody offers one dollar, and around half of all people offer ten dollars. But what would you do if your partner offered you seven dollars? Or five? Or three? Most people would accept the seven dollars, but not the three. Most people are willing to pay a few dollars, but not seven, to punish the selfish partner. (Location 1024)

Because I’m particularly interested in the role of gossip in our moral lives, I was pleased when a graduate student in my department, Holly Hom, told me that she wanted to study gossip. In one of Holly’s studies,21 we asked fifty-one people to fill out a short questionnaire each time over the course of a week that they took part in a conversation that went on for at least ten minutes. We then took only the records in which the topic of conversation was another person, which gave us about one episode of potential gossip per day per person. Among our main findings: Gossip is overwhelmingly critical, and it is primarily about the moral and social violations of others. (For college students, this meant a lot of talk about the sexuality, cleanliness, and drinking habits of their friends and roommates.) People do occasionally tell stories about the good deeds of others, but such stories are only one tenth as common as stories about transgressions. When people pass along high-quality (“juicy”) gossip, they feel more powerful, they have a better shared sense of what is right and what’s wrong, and they feel more closely connected to their gossip partners. (Location 1087)

Note: Gossip is overwhelmingly critical and it primarily about the moral and social violations of others

When comparing ourselves to others, the general process is this: Frame the question (unconsciously, automatically) so that the trait in question is related to a self-perceived strength, then go out and look for evidence that you have the strength. Once you find a piece of evidence, once you have a “makes-sense” story, you are done. You can stop thinking, and revel in your self-esteem. (Location 1336)

Note: when we compare ourselves to others we compare vs traits we perceive to be strong in

In philosophy classes, I often came across the idea that the world is an illusion. I never really knew what that meant, although it sounded deep. But after two decades studying moral psychology, I think I finally get it. The anthropologist Clifford Geertz wrote that “man is an animal suspended in webs of significance that he himself has spun.”32 That is, the world we live in is not really one made of rocks, trees, and physical objects; it is a world of insults, opportunities, status symbols, betrayals, saints, and sinners. All of these are human creations which, though real in their own way, are not real in the way that rocks and trees are real. These human creations are like fairies in J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan: They exist only if you believe in them. They are the Matrix (from the movie of that name); they are a consensual hallucination. (Location 1496)

Tags: societal norms

Note: the world is full of human creations such as status symbols,betrayel,opportunity

once anger comes into play, people find it extremely difficult to empathize with and understand another perspective. A better place to start is, as Jesus advised, with yourself and the log in your own eye. (Batson and Loewenstein both found that debiasing occurred only when subjects were forced to look at themselves.) And you will see the log only if you set out on a deliberate and effortful quest to look for it. (Location 1539)

Note: when you are angry look at your own behaviour and see have you erred

Happiness can only be found within, by breaking attachments to external things and cultivating an attitude of acceptance. (Location 1586)

Tags: happiness, desires

But recent research in psychology suggests that Buddha and Epictetus may have taken things too far. Some things are worth striving for, and happiness comes in part from outside of yourself, if you know where to look. (Location 1589)

We can call this “the progress principle”: Pleasure comes more from making progress toward goals than from achieving them. Shakespeare captured it perfectly: “Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing.” (Location 1619)

Tags: goals

Note: you get more pleasure from pursuing a goal than attaining it

We are bad at “affective forecasting,”5 that is, predicting how we’ll feel in the future. We grossly overestimate the intensity and the duration of our emotional reactions. (Location 1631)

The human mind is extraordinarily sensitive to changes in conditions, but not so sensitive to absolute levels. The winner’s pleasure comes from rising in wealth, not from standing still at a high level, and after a few months the new comforts have become the new baseline of daily life. The winner takes them for granted and has no way to rise any further. Even worse: The money might damage her relationships. Friends, relatives, swindlers, and sobbing strangers swarm around lottery winners, suing them, sucking up to them, demanding a share of the wealth. (Location 1635)

Note: we are sensitive to changes in conditions,not absolute levels

This is the adaptation principle at work: People’s judgments about their present state are based on whether it is better or worse than the state to which they have become accustomed.9 Adaptation is, in part, just a property of neurons: Nerve cells respond vigorously to new stimuli, but gradually they “habituate,” firing less to stimuli that they have become used to. (Location 1650)

Tags: hedonic adaptation, favorite

Note: peoples thoughts about their present state are based on what they are accustomed to

In every permanent situation, where there is no expectation of change, the mind of every man, in a longer or shorter time, returns to its natural and usual state of tranquility. In prosperity, after a certain time, it falls back to that state; in adversity, after a certain time, it rises up to it.12 If this idea is correct, then we are all stuck on what has been called the “hedonic treadmill.”13 On an exercise treadmill you can increase the speed all you want, but you stay in the same place. In life, you can work as hard as you want, and accumulate all the riches, fruit trees, and concubines you want, but you can’t get ahead. Because you can’t change your “natural and usual state of tranquility,” the riches you accumulate will just raise your expectations and leave you no better off than you were before. Yet, not realizing the futility of our efforts, we continue to strive, all the while doing things that help us win at the game of life. Always wanting more than we have, we run and run and run, like hamsters on a wheel. (Location 1663)

Tags: hedonic adaptation

Note: your expectations always recalibrate so that you return to your default level of happiness

The rich are happier on average than the middle class, but only by a little, and part of this relationship is reverse correlation: Happy people grow rich faster because, as in the marriage market, they are more appealing to others (such as bosses), and also because their frequent positive emotions help them to commit to projects, to work hard, and to invest in their futures. (Location 1716)

Tags: happiness

Note: people may not be happier because they are richer, rather they are richer because their happiness has helped them progress in the work place

One of the most important ideas in positive psychology is what Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, Schkade, and Seligman call the “happiness formula:” H = S + C + V The level of happiness that you actually experience (H) is determined by your biological set point (S) plus the conditions of your life (C) plus the voluntary activities (V) you do.34 The challenge for positive psychology is to use the scientific method to find out exactly what kinds of C and V can push H up to the top of your potential range. (Location 1763)

Tags: issue5, favorite

Note: the happiness is equal to your biological setpoint plus the conditions of your life plus the voluntary activities in your life

Research shows that people who must adapt to new and chronic sources of noise (such as when a new highway is built) never fully adapt, and even studies that find some adaptation still find evidence of impairment on cognitive tasks. Noise, especially noise that is variable or intermittent, interferes with concentration and increases stress. It’s worth striving to remove sources of noise in your life. (Location 1780)

Tags: noise

Note: many people never adapt to new sources of noise. noise adds to stress and reduces ability to complete tasks

In a review paper that Rodin and I wrote, we concluded that changing an institution’s environment to increase the sense of control among its workers, students, patients, or other users was one of the most effective possible ways to increase their sense of engagement, energy, and happiness. (Location 1803)

Tags: autonomy

Note: having a sense of control increases peoples happiness

Relationships. The condition that is usually said43 to trump all others in importance is the strength and number of a person’s relationships. Good relationships make people happy, and happy people enjoy more and better relationships than unhappy people. (Location 1814)

Tags: relationships

Note: the number and strength of peoples relationships is said to have the biggest impact on their happiness

The keys to flow: There’s a clear challenge that fully engages your attention; you have the skills to meet the challenge; and you get immediate feedback about how you are doing at each step (the progress principle). (Location 1849)

Tags: flow

Note: Immediate feedback is crucial to enable flow

Variety is the spice of life because it is the natural enemy of adaptation. (Location 1866)

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. (Location 2053)

If you want your children to grow up to be healthy and independent, you should hold them, hug them, cuddle them, and love them. Give them a secure base and they will explore and then conquer the world on their own. (Location 2192)

Tags: parenting

Note: give your child a secure loving base from which it can explore

people need adversity, setbacks, and perhaps even trauma to reach the highest levels of strength, fulfillment, and personal development. (Location 2577)

Tags: challenges

“The person who has had more experience of hardships can stand more firmly in the face of problems than the person who has never experienced suffering. From this angle, then, some suffering can be a good lesson for life.” (Location 2637)

Tags: suffering

Note: some suffering in life is good. it strengthens your charater and helps you deal with future obstaclezs

The second class of benefit concerns relationships. Adversity is a filter. When a person is diagnosed with cancer, or a couple loses a child, some friends and family members rise to the occasion and look for any way they can to express support or to be helpful. (Location 2639)

Tags: adversity, friends

Note: adversity shows you who your real friends are

Trauma changes priorities and philosophies toward the present (“Live each day to the fullest”) and toward other people. (Location 2650)

Tags: priotitise

Most of the life goals that people pursue at the level of “characteristic adaptations” can be sorted—as the psychologist Robert Emmons19 has found—into four categories: work and achievement, relationships and intimacy, religion and spirituality, and generativity (leaving a legacy and contributing something to society). (Location 2714)

Tags: life principles, favorite

We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world. (Location 2887)

Tags: wisdom, experience

Note: we must discover wisdom for ourselves

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” (Location 2904)

Tags: favorite

The strong version of the adversity hypothesis might be true, but only if we add caveats: For adversity to be maximally beneficial, it should happen at the right time (young adulthood), to the right people (those with the social and psychological resources to rise to challenges and find benefits), and to the right degree (not so severe as to cause PTSD). Each life course is so unpredictable that we can never know whether a particular setback will be beneficial to a particular person in the long run. But perhaps we do know enough to allow some editing of a child’s forehead writing: Go ahead and erase some of those early traumas, but think twice, or await future research, before erasing the rest. (Location 2913)

Tags: suffering, challenges

third feature of many ancient texts is that they emphasize practice and habit rather than factual knowledge. Confucius compared moral development to learning how to play music;10 both require the study of texts, observance of role models, and many years of practice to develop “virtuosity.” Aristotle used a similar metaphor: Men become builders by building houses, and harpists by playing the harp. Similarly, we grow just by the practice of just actions, self-controlled by exercising our self-control, and courageous by performing acts of courage. (Location 3011)

Although no specific virtue made every list, six broad virtues, or families of related virtues, appeared on nearly all lists: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence (the ability to forge connections to something larger than the self). (Location 3159)

OUR LIFE IS the creation of our minds, and we do much of that creating with metaphor. We see new things in terms of things we already understand: Life is a journey, an argument is a war, the mind is a rider on an elephant. With the wrong metaphor we are deluded; with no metaphor we are blind. (Location 3382)

Tags: metaphor

Note: with the wrong metaphor we are deluded. with no meraphor we are blind

For many people, one of the pleasures of going to church is the experience of collective elevation. People step out of their everyday profane existence, which offers only occasional opportunities for movement on the third dimension, and come together with a community of like-hearted people who are also hoping to feel a “lift” from stories about Christ, virtuous people in the Bible, saints, or exemplary members of their own community. When this happens, people find themselves overflowing with love, but it is not exactly the love that grows out of attachment relationships.32 That love has a specific object, and it turns to pain when the object is gone. This love has no specific object; it is agape. It feels like a love of all humankind, and because humans find it hard to believe that something comes from nothing, it seems natural to attribute the love to Christ, or to the Holy Spirit moving within one’s own heart. Such experiences give direct and subjectively compelling evidence that God resides within each person. And once a person knows this “truth,” the ethic of divinity becomes self-evident. (Location 3707)

The first can be called the question of the purpose of life: “What is the purpose for which human beings were placed on Earth? Why are we here?” (Location 4026)

Note: the two questions are: why are we here? how should we life?

The second sub-question is the question of purpose within life: “How ought I to live? What should I do to have a good, happy, fulfilling, and meaningful life?” (Location 4033)

people are like archers, who need a clear target at which to aim.13 Without a target or goal, one is left with the animal default: Just let the elephant graze or roam where he pleases. And because elephants live in herds, one ends up doing what everyone else is doing. (Location 4037)

Tags: goals

Note: Unless you have a goal your default will be to wander and do what everyone else is doing

We get more pleasure from making progress toward our goals than we do from achieving them because, as Shakespeare said, “Joy’s soul lies in the doing.” (Location 4091)

Tags: progress, happiness

Journalists, on the other hand, were in trouble. Most of them had gone into journalism with high ideals—respect for the truth, a desire to make a difference in the world, and a firm belief that a free press is a crucial support of democracy. But by the 1990s, the decline of family-run newspapers and the rise of corporate media empires had converted American journalism into just another profit center where the only thing that mattered was will it sell, and will it outsell our competitors? Good journalism was sometimes bad for business. Scare stories, exaggeration, trumped up conflict, and sexual scandal, all cut up into tiny digestible pieces, were often more profitable. Many journalists who worked for these empires confessed to having a sense of being forced to sell out and violate their own moral standards. Their world was unaligned, and they could not become vitally engaged in the larger but ignoble mission of gaining market share at any cost. (Location 4190)

What is the answer to the question of purpose within life? I believe the answer can be found only by understanding the kind of creature that we are, divided in the many ways we are divided. We were shaped by individual selection to be selfish creatures who struggle for resources, pleasure, and prestige, and we were shaped by group selection to be hive creatures who long to lose ourselves in something larger. We are social creatures who need love and attachments, and we are industrious creatures with needs for effectance, able to enter a state of vital engagement with our work. We are the rider and we are the elephant, and our mental health depends on the two working together, each drawing on the others’ strengths. (Location 4423)