An In Depth Look Into What (Really) Makes Humans Happy

August 11, 2006

As the first series on this blog, I plan on looking into what really makes humans happy. Not what we think will make us happy. Not what might make us happy. Rather, what science (whether Western or Eastern) has proven to make us happy.

A large part of this idea comes from the article Folk Science by Michael Shermer, better known as The Skeptic (yes, that’s the one thing from Scientific American that I still read, since it tends to be both interesting and challenging). In this article, Shermer posits that since we evolved to experience life on such a limitted spectrum of input, humans suck at figuring certain things out. Things like evolution (we don’t have the lifespan to really observe micro, let along macro, evolution), cosmology (forget about imagining tens of BILLIONS of years), and economics (we came from hunter/gatherers, not stock brokers and entreprenuers) totally baffle our “common sense.” That’s where science steps in.

Of all the things we suck at understanding, as of late one the most harmful has been happiness. We don’t really know what makes us happy. Money? Fame? Love? Until very recently, our “folk wisdom” on this topic has came up very short. Thankfully, with the advent of Positive Psychology, humans have become much better at knowing what makes us happy and what doesn’t. Often the answers (like in many other endeavors) are counterintuitive. However, they seem scientifically sound.

In this series, I’ll be looking into two (maybe more) books: The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz and Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman. Many books on these topics have been published in the past few years, but I’ll focus on these two and see what they can illuminate about what REALLY makes us happy.


In the meantime, I hope that everyone reading this is currently happy. Authentically and otherwise. :)



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