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Can We Be Happier?: Evidence and Ethics Hardcover – Illustrated, 4 February 2020
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Layard's pose is lucid and his analysis is spot on... guaranteed to put a smile on every reader's face -- Sebastian Shakespeare ― Daily Mail
Can We Be Happier? is a work of passion, a culmination of decades of research. ...the book is humane' -- Richard Seymour ― Guardian
- Publisher : Penguin Press; 1st edition (4 February 2020)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 416 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0241429994
- ISBN-13 : 978-0241429990
- Dimensions : 13.97 x 3.56 x 21.59 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 452,602 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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So what is the answer? Well I recommend the philosophy of ACT here - Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Looking at life through an ACT lens, the important thing is not a feeling - happiness or otherwise- it is the connection to one’s own and a community’s shared values and generally each other. NOT because it makes you happy (although it tends to!) but because that is what living a rich, fulfilling and meaningful life entails. And that is what motivates people, helps us to get along, cut through the crap that our theories and ideologies give us, stop obeying the inner and outer voices of fear of NOT ENOUGH and start embracing our actual experience in all its messy uncertainty, secure in the knowledge that the more we challenge ourselves the more we will fall down and hurt ourselves but neither pain nor happiness is the important part. Living in accordance with our clearly articulated and heart-held values is what matters. Values can be (a) moral things that we strive for eg be a good parent, an honest vendor, a caring neighbour or can be just what we love - breeding spaniels, gliding, geophysics or archaeology. Life needs a balance between those 2 kinds.
Why is that? Back then, when there wasn't as much technology present, people used to be kinder, more mindful and more appreciative of the few things they had (house, food, car, job, family, friends, etc.), however, that doesn't mean they had no issues. Nowadays, people have better-paid jobs, better education, more freedom on what they can say and do, but they are still miserable. Economies grew larger, BDP per capita grew and still, we have many issues all around the world. The main thing that drives the economy is to make more money. No entrepreneur will start his business if he/she thinks that will not make money. Everything is driven by money.
This book explains that through selflessness and acts of kindness can we improve overall happiness, not necessarily our own, but the two go hand in hand, as people tend to feel better when helping others.
If you want to improve your own happiness and mental health then this book is not the one for you, this is only an insight on how happiness is measured and what are the causes of the problems.
This book argues that the goal for a society must be the greatest possible all round happiness, and shows how each of us can become more effective creators of happiness, both as citizens and in our own organisations.
Written with Richard Layard's characteristic clarity, it provides hard evidence that increasing happiness is the right aim, and that it can be achieved. Its language is simple, its evidence impressive, its effect inspiring.
However I am not sure that 'happiness' is the right term.. Contentment seems more appropriate for a life that is more focused on self-care and the care of others in whatever ways fit into your life, work and leisure time.
I don't think it will change the world, but it certainly is a very good introduction to the idea of seeking a different and more humane way of living and very much worth reading for anyone who has come near to that crossroad of wondering what really their life is about and whether it is how they want to be living.
My only real issue with the book is that it is a little bit middle class in its worldview - e.g. "life today is probably as good as it has ever been in human history".. Ah, yeah, for whom?? Certainly not the working class, folks on benefits and increasing swathes of the middle class. He needs to look around him at the vast increase in poverty in the west, the growing hordes of homeless people (particularly in the USA) and in the dropping life expectancy for anyone who is not part of that shrinking group for whom 'life is good'... It IS possible to find inner peace when you literally have nothing - but this book won't get you there.