The Happiness Hypothesis

The Happiness Hypothesis

One of the more interesting, and better, happiness books released during the last few years has been Jonathan Haidt’s “The Happiness Hypothesis; finding modern truth in ancient wisdom.”

Although this blog posting is not intended in any way to provide a full or thorough review of the book I thought it might be useful to comment on a small, but important component of Haidt’s Happiness Hypothesis.

Among other things the book sets out to examine two main “happiness hypotheses” that have persisted over the centuries. The first is that “happiness comes from getting what you want”, but the book soundly dismisses that kind of happiness as fleeting. The second is that “happiness comes from within,” a favourite of many ancient philosophers as well as many contemporary psychologists.

Although there is much support for the latter claim Haidt’s book also provides ample research showing that external conditions, notably in the form of relationships, do contribute to happiness.

What does this mean? Well for me it means that the debate about happiness coming from internal or external forces is irrelevant. As Haidt concludes, it comes from “between”. There’s no doubt that we control many of the key variables that will boost our happiness (none more so that optimistic thinking) but there’s also no doubt that other people play a role too. So do what you can to control that which you can control and be as nice to others as possible so they will, hopefully, do their bit in contributing to your happiness!