In "The Happiness Hypothesis," Jonathan Haidt engagingly presents a myriad of social-psychological studies on state of mind. He covers ten ideas that recur in major historical texts including reciprocity, love/attachment and the pursuit of happiness, ultimately producing a highly readable, practical volume about human existence. Although Haidt occasionally over-simplifies his points, he does provide an exhaustive reference list for further reading and he certainly succeeds in creating a comprehensive overview of research on happiness.
The book's main analogy parallels an elephant and a rider: the elephant represents emotion, our subconscious disposition and inclinations whereas the rider symbolizes our conscious mind. Though the rider strives to steer and control the elephant, the elephant has it's own mind, one created by both evolution and culture. The conflict between the two leads to a divided self, one that unjustly criticizes others and gives into the temptation of positional goods such as bigger houses and fancier cars.
Haidt neither promotes apathy regarding one’s development of greater happiness, nor does he offer any easy answers. He does however discuss the advantages of meditation, cognitive-behavioural therapy and even medication. Additionally, he reveals features of daily life that increase happiness most dramatically: minimal disturbing noise, a shorter commute to work, greater autonomy in work/life, minimal shame in appearance and action, and an extended social network. Haidt concludes that we all have a genetic set-point; some people simply channel happiness with greater ease than others. But everyone should try to change the things within our reach, make some effort at changing the less mobile structural restraints and attempt to accept our dispositional nature.