Happiness Book Summary - Happiness Book explained in key points
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Happiness summary

Richard Layard

Lessons from a New Science

4 (32 ratings)
23 mins

Brief summary

Happiness by Richard Layard is a thought-provoking book that explores what makes us happy and how we can increase our collective happiness as a society through a combination of public policy and personal choices.

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    Happiness
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    Contrary to popular belief, happiness can be measured.

    Most of us believe that happiness is a mysterious phenomenon – a feeling or state of being that eludes measurement and explanation. Yet, in fact, there are several scientific ways to measure happiness.

    In most studies, participants are asked to simply assess how happy they are with their life situation in general. For instance, the General Social Survey – a longitudinal study conducted in the United States – asks participants the following:

    Taken all together, how would you say things are these days – would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy or not too happy?

    The resulting data of such studies suggests that the average rating of US citizens’ happiness hasn’t significantly increased since 1945.

    Clearly, such studies depend on rather subjective assessments of one’s own happiness. However, neuroscientists have also experimented with some more objective methods.

    Using EEG, for instance, they were able to identify certain areas of the brain that were active whenever subjects were happy or when they encountered things associated with increased happiness – like receiving a gift or compliment, or when presented with images of people they like.

    Such studies have revealed that positive feelings – such as pride, joy or gratefulness – usually correspond to greater activity in the left frontal area of the brain. In contrast, negative emotions – like fear, anxiety or anger – are linked with the right frontal area.

    The EEG approach can even work with infants: when they suck on sweet foods, their brains’ left frontal area is activated. Sour tastes, on the other hand, lead to greater activity in the right frontal area.

    Moreover, it’s even possible to directly induce human emotions. For example, experiments have demonstrated that stimulating the left frontal part of the brain with a strong magnet can automatically lift a person’s mood.

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    What is Happiness about?

    In Happiness, economist Richard Layard examines what it is that makes us happy and how anyone can achieve greater happiness. Basing his studies on insights from such diverse fields as psychology, philosophy and neuroscience, Layard presents compelling arguments that are great food for thought, encouraging readers to question their daily habits and practices.

    Happiness Review

    Happiness (2005) by Richard Layard explores the science behind what makes us happy and provides valuable insights on how to lead a more fulfilling life. Here are three reasons why this book stands out:

    • It offers evidence-based research that supports the notion that happiness can be learned and cultivated, empowering readers to take control of their own well-being.
    • Practical exercises and strategies are provided throughout the book, giving readers actionable steps to enhance their happiness levels and improve their overall quality of life.
    • Through compelling anecdotes and real-life stories, Layard delves into the societal factors that impact happiness, making the book more relatable and thought-provoking.

    Who should read Happiness?

    • Anyone interested in research on happiness
    • Anyone who wants to find out why money won’t necessarily make them happy
    • Anyone searching for ways to increase their general level of happiness

    About the Author

    Richard Layard (b. 1934) is a renowned British economist and the director of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics. Layard’s research on unemployment was the basis for the 1998 reformation of the job market in the United Kingdom, which significantly decreased the level of unemployment.

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    Happiness FAQs 

    What is the main message of Happiness?

    The main message of Happiness is that happiness can be achieved by focusing on the well-being of others.

    How long does it take to read Happiness?

    The reading time for Happiness varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Happiness a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Happiness is worth reading for its insights on finding fulfillment and creating a happier world.

    Who is the author of Happiness?

    The author of Happiness is Richard Layard.