Showing posts with label Psychology of happiness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Psychology of happiness. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

The Happiness Hypothesis - A Book Review

 The Happiness Hypothesis: 

Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom

Why the Meaningful Life is Closer Than You Think  



   Jonathan Haidt

Reviewed by

   Geoffrey W. Sutton


The Happiness Hypothesis is one of the best positive psychology books available in 2006 because Haidt integrates lessons from ancient sages with scientific evidence about a meaningful life.

Haidt begins by explaining two important systems in the mind as seen by ancient thinkers like the apostle Paul who considered the common problem of the battle between desires of the flesh and desires of the spirit. Haidt uses the metaphor of a rider atop an elephant to illustrate the difficulty in controlling the habitual ways of a large elephant charging through life with little cognitive awareness.

The second powerful idea is the time-honored truth that a happy or meaningful life often hangs upon the view people take toward life events. Our experience with people shows matches the evidence that people express different attitudes toward the same event such as a pessimistic or optimistic view.

The third idea is the importance principle of reciprocity in social relationships. It is a sort of social glue but we must beware of the ways people can manipulate us toward unhealthy choices.

Our inability to detect our own faults is the fourth point. It’s amazing how good we are in seeing other’s faults while being blind to our own, which can lead to impaired relationships.

Haidt parts with some ancient wisdom to explain how happiness is not just about an inner state of mind, but a relationship between our inner state and real-world action.

Love is his sixth idea. He examines different dimensions of love and finds philosophers give bad advice.

People respond to trauma in different ways. Haidt takes on Nietzsche’s quote, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” Some people are resilient and grow as a result of hardship, but some end up with PTSD. There is a difference.

Chapter eight deals with the corruption of the rich ideas behind the classic virtues and considers morality in a diverse society.

His ninth idea deals with spirituality. Haidt explains the importance of the psychology of disgust to appreciating the human tendency to rise above life’s unpleasantness and appreciate the awe of the sacred.

Finally, Haidt considers the interactive relationship between one person and others in formulating the happiness hypothesis. There are many ways people may have a happy and meaningful life.

I recommend the Happiness Hypothesis to anyone who wants to appreciate the way in which psychological scientists have examined support for ancient wisdom drawn from philosophers and religious leaders for thousands of years. His book, The Righteous Mind is a follow-up to the Happiness Hypothesis with a focus on understanding the moral divide between conservatives and liberals found in many societies.

If you are interested in more in-depth, but highly readable, findings on our divided thinking, read Kahneman’s book, Thinking, Fast and Slow.

Cite this review

Sutton, G. (2021, June 30) The happiness hypothesis-A book review. SuttonReviews. Retrieved from 

Book reference

Haidt, J. The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom: Why the Meaningful Life is Closer Than You Think. 

Related Book

Living Well: 10 Big Ideas of faith and a meaningful life.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Paradox of Choice- A Book Review by Sutton


By Barry Schwartz,

Reviewed by

  Geoffrey W. Sutton

I'm in the market for a new tablet. There are so many good choices. There are things I like about Apple and Android. Then I think about getting close to a lightweight laptop--so, I think about Windows. Schwartz is right--at least based on my experience!

Schwartz attributes his thinking about The Paradox of Choice to the preparation of an article on self-determination for the American Psychologist.

In this 265-page paperback, he explores the "darker side" of freedom using humor, examples from daily life, and easily understood accounts of psychological research to illustrate the psychological cost of an over-abundance of choice. 

In the prologue, Schwartz grants that choice is essential to autonomy, which in turn provides the grounds for well-being. However, his thesis is that at some point, "choice no longer liberates, but debilitates" (p. 2).

Schwartz observes that learning to choose is difficult and it is even hard to choose wisely--especially when there are so many options. Schwartz also notes that not having choices is almost unbearable. And, interestingly, when we have an opportunity to change our minds, the odds increase that we will change our minds!

He wisely advises us to:

 Think about our goals and choose items or actions related to our goals.

"Focus on what makes you happy, and do what gives meaning to your life”

 Choose something that is good enough and don't worry about getting something better.

Here's my closer:

“According to a survey conducted by Yankelovich Partners, a majority of people want more control over the details of their lives, but a majority of people also want to simplify their lives. There you have it—the paradox of our times.”

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Watch Barry Schwartz TED Talk on The Paradox of Choice

Saturday, June 24, 2017

AGING WELL by Vaillant - a Book Review



By George E. Vaillant, MD

Aging well is a developmental task I hope to accomplish. I became aware of the book when a student, Kathryn  R. Ward, decided to read it for a course I was teaching. I suggested some edits and her review was subsequently published in the Journal of Psychology and Christianity.

Vaillant defines successful aging on page 15 as a: “vital reaction to change, disease, and to conflict.”
I met George Vaillant at a Positive Psychology conference hosted by the Gallup Corporation. It was clear that he and his research team have learned a lot about aging as they have followed the progress of adults in the famous Harvard Study of Adult Development. What captured by interest was the emphasis on what works--what helps people grow and develop well.

The book provides an in-depth summary of adult development from the perspective of Erickson’s developmental tasks. Using examples and empirical data, we learn of contributing factors to well-being such as play, wisdom, and religion.

Those interested in research will find measures, tables, and figures in the appendices.

As we observed in the published review, clinicians may find the summaries useful as they consider what tasks and concepts may be applicable to their own adult clients. For example, although we learn about development in the course of becoming mental health providers, we may need reminders to consider how a client's concerns may be related to the process of development.

The Harvard study team provides updates as new information and analyses become available.

To see a talk by George Vaillant on the importance of relationships to health, resilience and ageing, go to this YouTube site.