- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (Dec 26 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0465028012
- ISBN-13: 978-0465028016
- Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.4 x 2.4 cm
- Shipping Weight: 590 g
- Average Customer Review: 27 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #501,960 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom Hardcover – Dec 26 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, lamented St. Paul, and this engrossing scientific interpretation of traditional lore backs him up with hard data. Citing Plato, Buddha and modern brain science, psychologist Haidt notes the mind is like an "elephant" of automatic desires and impulses atop which conscious intention is an ineffectual "rider." Haidt sifts Eastern and Western religious and philosophical traditions for other nuggets of wisdom to substantiate—and sometimes critique—with the findings of neurology and cognitive psychology. The Buddhist-Stoic injunction to cast off worldly attachments in pursuit of happiness, for example, is backed up by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's studies into pleasure. And Nietzsche's contention that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger is considered against research into post-traumatic growth. An exponent of the "positive psychology" movement, Haidt also offers practical advice on finding happiness and meaning. Riches don't matter much, he observes, but close relationships, quiet surroundings and short commutes help a lot, while meditation, cognitive psychotherapy and Prozac are equally valid remedies for constitutional unhappiness. Haidt sometimes seems reductionist, but his is an erudite, fluently written, stimulating reassessment of age-old issues. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Using the wisdom culled from the world's greatest civilizations as a foundation, social psychologist Haidt comes to terms with 10 Great Ideas, viewing them through a contemporary filter to learn which of their lessons may still apply to modern lives. He first discusses how the mind works and then examines the Golden Rule ("Reciprocity is the most important tool for getting along with people"). Next, he addresses the issue of happiness itself--where does it come from?--before exploring the conditions that allow growth and development. He also dares to answer the question that haunts most everyone--What is the meaning of life?--by again drawing on ancient ideas and incorporating recent research findings. He concludes with the question of meaning: Why do some find it? Balancing ancient wisdom and modern science, Haidt consults great minds of the past, from Buddha to Lao Tzu and from Plato to Freud, as well as some not-so-greats: even Dr. Phil is mentioned. Fascinating stuff, accessibly expressed. June Sawyers
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
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.
This is one of the best books I have ever read. It is very psychologically and philospohically based. Thus, it should not be embarked upon lightly for it is quite dense. However, I have never read anything that so completely reframes everyday experience as this book. I really love it.
It starts with looking at the evolution of the human brain and talks about the two parts of it: the elephant (wise emotional) and the rider (wise logical). Then the book continues to take the reader through the most popular spiritual, philospohical and psychological theories and compare their postulates against current psychological research. The results
are pretty amazing.
One of my favourites was the exploration of the adage : "money can't buy happiness". The author quips "It turns out it can if you just know where to shop". A short summary...
Humans are excellant at adapting to their environment. So for most of us, the everyday becomes somewhat hum drum no matter what your everyday is like. (The author takes the time to explain when and why we don't adapt.) However, we feel happiness thoughtout our day when we are engaged in activities that suit are greatest strengths (possibilities such as compassion, creativity, learning, honesty, justice). The author
further states that if we use money to buy experiences that allow us to use our strengths then we feel more happy on average than others. The same if we use our money to buy
us time to use our strengths. (Examples... pay a cleaning service to free up time, painting classes (create your dustables instead of buying them), vacations, family picnics
etc.) The trick was to use money on experiences not objects. The objects we acquire are only valuable in creating happiness while we are involved in the experience of purchasing
them. Once they are home, on the shelf, in the living room etc., we adapt to their presense and no longer feel the passion they first ignited in us.
This book has many more important suggestions. I recommend it to anyone who likes to shake up their perception of the world.
Professor Haidt matches ancient wisdom with modern research, and presents scholarly research in a very approachable, easy to read manner.
Wonderfully written, and full of timeless advice.
Thanks Professor Haidt for a wonderful book.
It is thankfully not another pop-self-help book but also manages to stay approachable. There's so much meat in here that I'll need to re-read it a couple more times to digest all the applications for creating greater happiness in life.
Not really a self help book but neither is it strictly academic. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't enjoy this book. I think if you like the work of Malcolm Gladwell you will like this.
And the cover is perfect.
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