THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS: What Makes a Person Happy--and Why by David G. Myers

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS: What Makes a Person Happy--and Why

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Myers, a research-oriented social psychologist whose views, he acknowledges, are colored by his Christian values, offers an ""interim report on a fledgling science""--the study of happiness. Noting that the psychological literature on happiness, life satisfaction, and subjective well-being has mushroomed in the past decade or so, Myers (who wrote the standard textbook Social Psychology) reports on what researchers have discovered thus far. Not surprisingly, some myths have been shattered, others reinforced. Age, sex, race, parental status, place of residence, and education appear to have little correlation with happiness--nor do firewalking, astrology, subliminal tapes, or hypnosis, popular techniques for reprogramming unhappy minds that Myers debunks along the way. What does aid the pursuit of happiness? Optimism, self-esteem, feelings of being in control, satisfying work, realistic expectations, an outgoing disposition, physical fitness and health, friends, a good marriage, and religious faith. Myers suggests that feigning a desirable trait is a good way to acquire it--saying becomes believing as going through the motions triggers emotions, and acting becomes natural behavior. Two psychological principles emerge here: that happiness is relative to prior personal experience (e.g., although money doesn't buy happiness, getting a raise brings a temporary surge of pleasure as one experiences a relative improvement); that happiness is relative to social experience (e.g., comparisons to those having less money, success, intelligence, prestige, or good fortune tend to produce happiness, whereas comparisons to those having more of these prized attributes tend to produce unhappiness). Myers concludes that ""well-being is found in the renewal of disciplined life-styles, committed relationships, and the giving and receiving of acceptance."" Not another quick-fix book, but a sober look at what's known about the nature of human happiness.

Pub Date: May 19th, 1992
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Morrow