Happiness by Design

Happiness by Design (2014) by Paul Dolan is a thoughtful, easy to read book on what we can specifically do to feel better. Dolan is an economist who has worked with Dan Kahneman, the psychologist who won the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Dolan looks at how we feel good by both obtaining hedonistic pleasure and by having purpose in life. This is something of a shift from most books about happiness but it helps. Having children, something which notoriously does not increase hedonistic pleasure is something that gives people a huge sense of purpose in their lives. Dolan also points out that hobbies that we have to work at also give us this sense of purpose and help us to feel better.

Dolan emphasises how what we think makes us happy is not calibrated against what actually does make us happy. He also looks at how being happy and feeling content is strongly aligned with how we focus our attention and modern electronics often allow people to easily make themselves unfocused causing them to feel worse. The book also points out how new and varied experiences make us feel better more than material goods do.

The book is easy to read and thought provoking. It’s definitely recommended.

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