THE HAPPINESS HYPOTHESIS

“SUPPOSE YOU READ ABOUT A PILL  YOU COULD TAKE ONCE A DAY TO REDUCE ANXIETY AND INCREASE YOUR CONTENTMENT. SUPPOSE FURTHER THAT THE PILL HAS A GREAT VARIETY OF SIDE EFFECTS, ALL OF THEM GOOD: INCREASED SELF ESTEEM, EMPATHY, TRUST AND EVEN IMPROVES MEMORY. SUPPOSE, FINALLY THAT THE PILL IS ALL NATURAL AND COSTS NOTHING.” JONATHAN HAIDT SAYS THE PILL EXISTS, IT IS MEDITATION. 

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In today’s book of the day, ‘The Happiness Hypothesis’ Jonathan Haidt introduces the idea that the human brain is divided into two main parts.

1.The Limbic system- In charge of our primal instincts such as the need for food, sleep, and sex.

2.The Neocortex- Newer part of the brain in charge of rational thinking, cognition and motor commands (movement).

Haidt uses a metaphor to describe the relationship between our primal and rational brain. He describes the Limbic system as a wild elephant and the neocortex as the rider, trying to control the elephant. He explains how our baseline level of happiness is determined mostly by our genes but it can be raised by improving the relationship between the elephant and the rider.

The Happiness Equation 

H=S+C+V

H= Happiness

S= Happiness Set Point- Genetically determined, the default level of happiness to which one returns after and emotional experience (positive or negative).

C= Living Conditions- Income and Security

V= Voluntary Activities- Goals, hobbies, relationships

Haidt says there are three ways to raise your ‘S’ (Happiness Set Point).

 

  1. Meditation- Teaches the individual how to focus their attention and control their own thoughts.
  2. Cognitive Therapy- Focuses on finding alternative thought patterns to impact an individual’s emotional state.
  3. Prozac- Increases serotonin (feel-good chemical) levels in the brain. It is used to treat depression, anxiety, OCD and most eating disorders.

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Progress Principle

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  • The pleasurable feeling you get as you make progress towards a new goal. Your brain rewards you with an instant rush of serotonin and dopamine immediately after you make an advancement. 
  • Once the goal has been achieved, you only experience this feeling as contentment. As a short term release when parts of the brain reduce their activity after the goal has been reached.
  • Haidt says that “when it comes to goal pursuit, it’s the journey that counts, not the destination.  The moment of final success is often no more thrilling than the relief of taking off a heavy backpack at the end of a long hike.”
  • In summary, people who are often working towards new goals are often much happier than those who aren’t.
The Adversity Hypothesis
  • States that people need adversity, setbacks and sometimes even trauma to reach their highest levels of emotional strength. In other words ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ because without mental struggle the individual would be weak and underdeveloped. Adversity is necessary for most people, it helps us build emotional fitness through a process known as post-traumatic growth.  
  • In direct contrast to post-traumatic growth, there is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  This mental health condition is triggered by a terrifying event and there are little to no benefits from this severe type of trauma. 
Personal Review 

In this book, you’ll learn more about how your brain works. You’ll learn how to manage your emotions, how to deal with adversity and how to control your own thoughts. 

I recommend this book if you have/are dealing with some sort of adversity in your own life. You can use the techniques taught in the book to change your perspective and ultimately change your life. 

Happiness is a state of mind,  a choice you get to make every day. 

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