The hype about happiness

IN his book Happiness: The Science behind Your Smile, British psychologist Daniel Nettle observes that happiness varies from country to country. For example, the Swiss are much more happy than Bulgarians. The book also concludes that living in constantly noisy places reduces happiness.

Natural selection doesn’t give a fig for our happiness. Nettle concludes that that what we are programmed for by evolution is not happiness itself, but a set of beliefs about the kinds of things that will bring happiness, and a disposition to pursue them.

Nettle essentially equates happiness with satisfaction. He points out that most of the things people think will make them happy do not. He writes of the hedonic treadmill — the idea that if we get status and other worldy goods, we adapt to them so quickly that our happiness level returns to what it was before we got them.

The things that really determine our happiness level are genes, satisfaction, autonomy, and challenges

In the end, Nettle suggests that we would all probably be happier by trading income or material goods for time with people or hobbies, though most people do not do so.

Another way to feel better is to forget about pursuing happiness, and focus on broader ambitions. “People with faith, or a broad range of interests, often achieve a kind of satisfaction,” Nettle says, “because there is a wider set of goals that puts their immediate suffering into context.”

And concentrating on something else could mean that happiness might just turn up when we are not looking.

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15 thoughts on “The hype about happiness

  1. ….I see you’ve dipped into Monica’s reading-list of ‘authoritative literature’.
    And, as is so often the case, the basic premises are false.
    eg, “Nettle essentially equates happiness with satisfaction.”

    I shot a dog recently which ~ given all the circumstances ~ left me ‘satisified’ that I’d done the only decent thing possible. But as far from ‘happy’ as it’s possible to get.

    Shooting the dog’s owner, however, would’ve made me ‘happy’ ~ for a short while.

    [Which might explain why god doesn’t wipe out evil (and humanity) once and for all; ‘fighting’ Satan brings “satisfaction” but not happiness. Killing Satan might make him “happy” for a few billion short years, but wouldn’t be “satisfying” in terms of eternity.]

    So I guess Nettle’s near the mark in saying that “our happiness level returns to what it was before we” (achieved out purpose).

    At the end of the day, ‘twould seem “what we are programmed for by evolution is not happiness itself, (rather) a disposition to pursue” ; that “satisfaction” (on a long-term basis) lies in making an effort rather than achieving an end.

    ,,,,,,,ask any married man!
    Or woman 😉

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  2. We are not in pursuit of happiness in my opinion, but seeking inner peace by realizing who we are. Once we know who we truly are, we know our purpose and knowing the purpose, we arrive at inner peace regardless what is happening around us.
    And yes we are evolving in that sense. Always were. We come and go, expanding the understanding of who we are. :)-

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    • Hi fossall.

      ‘Who we are’ was most forcefully addressed in many different ways in the Spielberg movie called ‘Amistad’. If you haven’t seen it I urge you to do so.

      Here are a couple of clips. The first is a ‘trailer’ to give you a quick idea of the content, and the second has to be one of the greatest speeches ever written for movie, delivered to perfection by Anthony Hopkins.
      Enjoy.

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    • I will have to listen to the speech litter later, but I will. Just one comment dabbles; the film is showing us who we not. To know who we are, we have to experience who we are not. Bit wacked idea for some, but how else could we appreciate the true value of love without knowing the opposite.

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      • I remember being introduced to a Sacred Circle Dance where the accompnying words were ”We are angels, but we have forgotten these things.”

        No google search has led me to a source, only to irrelevancies.

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      • We certainly not humans. We are spirit beings, this is documented in Genesis 1 when God created Man, male and female it created them. In my understanding Man incorporates both sexes in the same being, undivided and complete. Division came only when we entered the physical realm. Man is a spirit just as God is. Only so we could be in its image. Our purpose is to manifest God, while the soul is physical and is tempted in all things.
        We need to read the bible in its context and nor fragment the information to suit particular purpose we want to prove. One of the greatest misinterpretations is the story of Adam and Eva. This is religion in its best. Preachers love to thunder from pulpits about the original sin we all carry ever since. Than thee is this god that will punish you with eternal damnation if you don’t do what it wants. Where is the free will then? If we have to obey certain line of politics ordained by god, we have no will at all. We just puppets following official line and if we don’t we had it. Reminds me on communism. And poor Eva, she is really copping the flag from the pulpits. She is the perfect excuse for every male on this planet for his downfall in morality. It was the original SIN of the poor Eva that makes me do it. Isn’t it time to cast away excuses and be personally responsible for oneself? Isn’t it time to stop blaming god for our miseries and find the real reason? Stop been religious and start been spiritual. Cast away the preconceptions about our differences, allow others to be different. Stop judgements based on ignorance. There are enough there already. We were all created by god, regardless of religion, skin colour and planet. We all share this Cosmos and the same god. In our ignorance we have named this god different names over the millenniums, but that didn’t make the god different.Just we forced god to carry different labels. I can imagine god must be amused at our ignorance.
        We say Jesus is god the father, that is true and false at the same time, unless we know the reason for it. Unless we know the origin of oneself.There is nothing exclusive in the spirit realm. If anybody likes to understand it really, we must cast away what we were told from others and reach into the inner realm within. This is where the truth lays dormant, waiting to be discovered. As to crucifixion of Christ, we all do it daily. It is the still small voice within each that we shut up, disobey and ignore. Imagine yourself been totally ignored, when you speak people would just pretend not to hear you and pretend you don’t exist. This is what each of us does to the Christ spirit within all of us. This spirit is present in all, and it can only come to life if we decide to let it. Once again, regardless of ethnic origins, religion and other believes. Same god, same spirit. Christians claim exclusivity to this spirit, why? Is there more that one god? Get away from judging by the labels. Judge by the deeds. Christians have many failings as well. We all have. The very people Jesus came from judged him in their ignorance. What makes us think we different? I bet we would kill Christ again if appearing same way as Jesus did, presenting us with perfection.

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      • I don’t see it that way fossall. Watching the whole clip may make things clearer.
        The message is “Who we are is who we were”…..and I read that as ‘forever’, and even conceptually and metaphysically.
        That is: ‘we embody everything that ever was before this moment’.
        I think that’s a brilliant specification.

        …and as for ‘love’, well I’m still not comfortable with the word, nor what our concepts variously mean by it.
        People say ‘love’ and behave completely at variance with my take on the term.
        Dogs don’t have a word for nor concept of ‘love’ yet often act in complete accordance with my take on it.
        I suspect the difference is that WE see ‘It’ subjectively whereas animals are grounded in objectivity.

        Just this morning I saw a clip of a number of elephants saying goodbye to and undeniably mourning one of their number killed by poachers. It occurred to me that I’d much prefer their presence at my funeral than any of the people who are likely to be there.
        ….for all the obvious reasons, and a few not quite so obvious.

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  3. PS. re. your other comment:- I’m fond of reminding everybody that it was ADAM that was instructed not to take the forbidden fruit: BEFORE Eve was ever created.
    God said absolutely NOTHING to her about any prohibition.

    But on the other hand, it was also god who sent the serpent ~ and via the serpent delivered that Word of God which insisted the previously-proposed punishment (death) would most certainly NOT be applied.

    I never receive a response to the question:- Which WOG are we to believe?

    Even our Monica lies doggo. 🙂

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    • Hi Dabbles,

      As a matter of interest, have you ever read what certain of the ancient Christian Gnostics used to say about the real identities of the Deity and the Serpent, depicted in the Garden of Eden story??? They turned the whole account upside down; and no wonder that they were condemned by the orthodox Christian Fathers. Some of us still think they had some good ideas.

      Rian. (Neo-Gnostic heretic!)

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      • The serpent symbolises thought. At various levels it is higher spiritual thought, or lower base thought. The medical profession use it in their symbol, the caduceus,

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      • 🙂 I can agree to this. Thought is the father of all things. Without the thought (and the serpent in paradise) we would simply not exist.
        Consider John’s saying “In the beginning was the word, the word was with god and the word was god.”
        Word is expressed thought. Verbalized though. The bible is sometimes very explicit if we can read it properly. Well done Strewth.

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      • Heretics are always welcome here. Because there is no such thing as heresy. Heresy is religious term. And absolutely, the story of the “fall” was greatly distorted to keep us in fear. Religions have vested interest in fearing sheep, as do all forms of government.
        It says the truth will set you free. Free from what? Fear. Once we remove fear we able to love without conditions. Unrestricted. Love of god is not like human love, not erotic, demanding, depending on been loved back, doesn’t need to defend itself. Love is because it is. For no other reason. Most of us are just fooling ourselves if we say we love. We are totally conditional in our “love.”

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  4. @ dabbles
    …and as for ‘love’, well I’m still not comfortable with the word, nor what our concepts variously mean by it.
    People say ‘love’ and behave completely at variance with my take on the term.
    Dogs don’t have a word for nor concept of ‘love’ yet often act in complete accordance with my take on it.
    I suspect the difference is that WE see ‘It’ subjectively whereas animals are grounded in objectivity.

    Just this morning I saw a clip of a number of elephants saying goodbye to and undeniably mourning one of their number killed by poachers. It occurred to me that I’d much prefer their presence at my funeral than any of the people who are likely to be there.
    ….for all the obvious reasons, and a few not quite so obvious.

    I understand your reluctance to the word love. It is the same corruption as the word god. It was and is overused by people without understanding and more importantly “experiencing” the true unconditional love. I also agree that a dog will show purer love than most people ever will. And the elephants? What can I say to add? Nothing really. They have very high sense of loyalty and sympathy we in general lacking. But this love I speak of does exist, it is usually invisible to those who can’t understand it. Until it hits us personally from within. You will dabbles for sure. I am convinced you will. A new world will open to you, not in church perhaps, but the place and methods doesn’t matter as long it comes to you. There is and is not only one way to god. The peak is the same, but the paths are many.

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