Reflecting on happiness

An Economist’s Lessons on Happiness by Richard A. Easterlin (Springer; £9.99); reviewed by Tara Dean.

Have you ever wondered what makes people happy? Earning more money? Being young or old? Male or female? Living in a socialist or capitalist society? The answer to these questions is… It’s complicated!

An Economist’s Lessons on Happiness is a captivating and enlightening journey through many different facets of happiness. It highlights the strengths and pitfalls of associated research, challenging some commonly held beliefs around happiness originating in poor quality published research. The book explores happiness over time, happiness in different countries, and the impact governments can have.
Easterlin explains why countries that transition from socialist to capitalist do not have the expected increase in happiness levels. This is largely due to the shift from cradle to grave issues being catered for by government policy in a socialist economy to being frequently left in the hands of the free market under capitalism. Fear surrounding job availability and security is also a factor for both the unemployed and employed.

The concepts are well explained and easy to apply. There is clear practical guidance for how to increase your own happiness and to assess whether your actions match your view of what the ‘good life’ is. The moral of the story is – don’t chase the money, it often takes the focus away from being able to give time to things that increase your happiness according to your values. Reading this book gave me the opportunity to reflect on my own priorities. As I am currently looking for my next job opportunity, I received this welcome message warmly, as though coming from an older wiser uncle.

This book provides a satisfying, holistic perspective on the many factors contributing to happiness in an educational and personable read. This is a great opportunity to assess whether we are living a life that is true to ourselves, and to identify areas for change and improvement.

- Reviewed by Tara Dean, a Business Psychologist

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