Home » Other » Book 10 – The Happiness Hypothesis

Book 10 – The Happiness Hypothesis

My measure of a good book is that it improves the way you think about the world after reading it, and for me this book delivers. He goes into the research behind the mechanisms for our emotions and notes that certain types of happiness are an endless pursuit.


For example, beyond a “comfortable” level of income, you will have diminishing returns of happiness with every extra X amount earned. Not only that, but you adapt to your new income level and the novelty of the extra money wears off. This means after a while you derive the same happiness from your pay as you did several years ago on lower income.

Book ten is …

The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt

The happiness hypothesis review

PRO TIP: Take notes! When you read a book, use a blank sheet of paper as a bookmark and write down any interesting facts and information from the book. You won’t remember everything a year from now, so this condenses a whole book into 3-4 pages of key notes that are important to you.

Some of my notes:

  • In a moral argument, your emotional mind takes a position and your rational mind invents a reason for your position. This makes it hard to argue because you aren’t invested in your reason.
  • As we feel losses more than gains, areas we worry about will only get worse e.g. careful with money can bring joy with every saving, but every speeding fine is that much more painful to us
  • Reciprocity in the animal kingdom is a zero-sum game where one has to lose out for the other to gain
  • Salesmen use reciprocity (free sample etc.) to trick us into donations/purchases
  • They use concession (conceding) by using an inflated starting price, making the other person likely to settle on a higher number AND be happier with it
  • People over-estimate their contribution in group settings and their abilities compared to others. The sum contribution on group projects at University is 140%
  • We accurately assess the skills of others but inflate our own
  • The Progress Principle: Joy is in the journey, the main emotion that follows accomplishment is relief.
  • The Adaptation Principle: we react strongly to a change in circumstance, but a prolonged period will see us adjust our benchmark happiness to our new level of e.g. wealth
  • Happiness Formula: H = S + C + V, where H = Happiness Experienced, S = Genetic predisposition or set point, C = Conditions of your life e.g. race, sex, marital status, age, and V = Voluntary activities, such as exercise, meditation, playing a musical instrument

There are certain “Happiness Variables” for which you never fully adapt, and will always cause you stress/diminished happiness. These are:

  • Noise: living somewhere noisy e.g. near a pedestrian crossing that beeps constantly, provides stress you never adapt to.
  • Commuting: long commutes in traffic should be avoided long term
  • Control: a lack of control over your life is endlessly stressful
  • Shame: those embarrassed about something daily feel worse e.g. body image
  • Relationships: a positive relationship is one of the best determinants of happiness, but sour relationships cause terrible friction


  • People who seek money, fame and beauty are less happy on average
  • A study found the highest reported happiness was during a “flow state” – when people were doing something challenging but well matched to their ability
  • Passionate love is fleeting (honeymoon phase) while compassionate love grows steadily
  • Suicide rates increase the fewer obligations and attachments someone has in life. Social relationships are very important.
  • When people increased volunteer work all measures of happiness and well being increased. This lasted for as long as they continued volunteering.

Your work falls into one of three categories:

  1. A “Job”: You clock watch, purely do it for pay, and your fulfilment comes from what you do outside of work
  2. A “Career”: You see progression, sometimes question the ‘rat race’ but still work for promotions
  3. A “Calling”: You enjoy your work, if you won the lottery and didn’t HAVE to do anything for money you would still do this activity.