science behind your smile

weeeell I finished happiness: the science behind your smile [daniel nettle] a while ago… here are the many relevant exerts from my final readings from the book //

“As we have seen, extroverts want rewarding things more strongly than introverts do. However, it doesn’t follow that they should be any happier. It could even be the other way around. With so many things that they crave, they might be dissatisfied much of the time. Moreover, wanting things strongly is not the same as liking them once you have them.” [happiness, 102]

“That is to say, extroverts have more positive emotion, but can have just as much negative emotion as anyone else. If it is any consolation, the cheery socialite can have moments of existential dread and pain just like anyone else. I think the most likely explanation for the greater happiness of extroverts is that they are more likely to do things with a strong emotional reward. At any given point in time, your extrovert is more likely to be married, more likely to have been to a party, more likely to have been playing sports, more likely to have talked to friends, and has had sex more recently, than your introvert. His personality leads him to draw a series of moments of reward from the environment. Thus when you ask him, he is differentially likely to be in a positive affective state. People who rate their happiness as unusually high are low-neuroticism extroverts who spend little time alone. Thus, at the moment of asking, they are more likely to have just come from some social interaction or other.” [happiness, 102]

“People make choices because they believe that one alternative will make them happier than the other. They must believe this, or they would be indifferent, resigned, and ultimately disaffected.” [happiness, 112]

As the personality findings show that happiness stems mainly not from the world itself, but from the way people address the world itself, but from the way people address the world. This is one of the few things in life you can work on directly. You have all the resources you need to do it available already, and it is probably easier to change yourself than it is to change the whole of your external circumstances (it is certainly a lot cheaper). And the life-events studies suggest that if you can change yourself, the external world may even begin to follow suit.” [happiness, 113]

“Human choices have a point not just because of their impact on feelings of pleasure and worry but also because of their effects on broader goods like interest, equity, beauty, justice, harmony, and community. Thus the lesson of the personality studies might be that, apart from the negative cognition so serious that it stops you functioning, you should not be completely preoccupies by the level of felt joy and worry. As Martin Seligman has argues, sweating over changing these things will have only limited effect. Instead, you have to learn to put them into context and lift your eyes beyond them to the broader horizon.” [happiness, 114]

“Although we implicitly feel that the things we want in life will make us happy, this may be a particularly cruel trick played by our evolved mind to keep us competing. The things we want in life are the things the evolved mind tells us to want, and it doesn’t give a fig about our happiness. All the evidence suggest that you would probably be happier not caring about your promotion and going and building boats or doing volunteer work instead. Moreover, the more important people believe financial success is, the more dissatisfied with both work and family life they are.” [happiness, 152]

“The hedonic paradox is the notion that by pursuing happiness itself, one makes it more distant, whereas by pursuing something else, one can inadvertently bring it closer. The paradox was clearly articulated by, amongst others, John Stuart Mill: Those only are happy… who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness. Aiming thus at something else, they find happiness along the way. By contrast, by focusing in on one’s own happiness, one inevitable draws attention to its shortfall; ‘ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so.’ [happiness, 154]

“to experience happiness requires us to be at least sometimes fully present in the here and now, and not distracted by desires or self-consciousness: It is a flaw. In happiness, to see beyond our bourn— It forces us in summer skies to mourn. It spoils the singing of the nightingale.” [happiness, 160]

“Evolution has given us a strong implicit theory of happiness. That is, we come to the world believing that there is such a thing as achievable happiness, that it is desirable and important, and that the things that we desire will bring it about. It is not self-evident that any of these are actually true. This does not matter, however. Evolution’s purposes are served if it can trick us in to working for things that are good for our fitness. It can do this by making us believe that those things bring happiness, and that happiness is what we want. It doesn’t actually have to deliver the happiness in the end. The idea of happiness has done its job if it has kept us trying. In other words, evolution hasn’t set us up for the attainment of happiness, merely its pursuit.” [happiness, 168]

“In his play Man and superman, George Bernard Shaw has one of his characters exclaim: ‘A lifetime of happiness. No man alive could bear it: it would be hell on earth.’ This points up one of the many fascinating paradoxes associated with happiness. Although we all seem to feel that happiness is desirable and its pursuit important, fictional world where everyone is happy are never Utopias. In fact, they are always dystopias against which people rebel.” [happiness, 170]

“The basis of many gratifications is precisely the challenge required to obtain them, and short-cutting this removes their appeal. Thus, paradoxically, in order to have the possibility of deep gratification, we need to admit the possibility of failure and frustration into our lives. It is necessary to have the possibility of unhappiness for happiness to have any meaning.” [happiness, 172] ” As Nathaniel Hawthorne put it: Happiness is a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” [happiness, 184]

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