The Best Books I Read in 2014

What do Michael Lewis, Dale Carnegie, J. K. Rowling, Homer, Roz Chast, and Elizabeth Strout have in common?

Does Money Really Buy Happiness?

Much has been said and written about whether money makes people happy, and the conclusions offered can differ radically, depending on which psychologists, economists, or commentators we listen to. Indeed, the data are confusing and contradictory. I offer here the take-home message in a nutshell. (Excerpt from The Myths of Happiness.)

What's So Great About Flow?

One of my favorite definitions of the emotion happy is that you are happy when you want to keep doing what you’re doing. Mihail Csikszentmihalyi has spent his career studying the experience of flow – a state characterized by being so absorbed in what you’re doing that you don’t notice the passage of time; you are completely unselfconscious.

Are Parents Happier or More Miserable?

I have four kids, so I can attest to the truism that children are the source of our greatest joy and our greatest sorrow. Kids give our lives purpose, infuse us with fun and pride, and enrich our identities. At the same time, they are also vectors for worry, anger, and disappointment; they deprive us of sleep; and they strain our finances and marriages.

Why Aren't We Happier During the Holidays?

The holidays are rife with Pollyannaish expectations. We look forward to them all year long, cutting out holiday recipes, writing to-do lists, researching gifts, and making travel plans. Science shows, however, that such high expectations are frequently both erroneous and toxic.

How To Buy Happiness

Studies reveal that although there is a significant relationship between income and well being, it isn’t as straightforward, or as strong, as we might think. Research shows that as long as our basic needs are met, it's how we spend our money—not how much we possess—that has the greater influence on our happiness.

Are You Unhappy With Your Job?

Recent surveys show that more Americans than ever are dissatisfied with their jobs. Some are burned out or bored, while others feel that their dream job or professional success has eluded them...But will a new (dream) job really make us happier?

7 Myths About Happiness We Need to Stop Believing

Nearly all of us buy into the myths of happiness—beliefs that certain adult achievements (marriage, wealth) will make us forever happy and that certain adult failures or adversities (illness, divorce) will make us forever unhappy. Overwhelming research evidence, however, reveals that there is no magic formula for happiness and no sure course toward misery.

Why the Passion Goes Out of Relationships

In fairy tales, marriages last happily ever after. Science, however, tells us that wedded bliss has but a limited shelf life.

Redemption, Happiness, and the Olympics

The most compelling stories heard about Olympians are stories of redemption—of overcoming adversity to reach new heights, of suffering being redeemed. Oscar Pistorius had both his legs amputated, yet grew up to sprint in the 2012 Olympics. Bryshon Nellum endured agonizing years of recovery after being shot in the legs, yet carries the U.S. flag at the Closing Ceremonies.

My Quibble With Facebook

The reason I rarely take any pleasure in Facebook is that it "ordinizes" our friends, family members, acquaintances, and colleagues. It takes unique individuals who have intriguing hidden sides and qualities and turns them into ordinary, unremarkable, and sometimes even boring people.

Does Marriage Make Us Happy? Should It?

The evidence is unequivocal that being married is correlated with happiness. The evidence is also unequivocal that the causal direction goes both ways. That is, having a strong marriage may make us happy, but those of us who are happy to begin with appear to be more likely to attract a marriage partner and to erect an enduring and fulfilling partnership.

How Blinded Is Your Thinking at This Very Moment?

Isn't it amazing how some days we wake up and the world seems beautiful—full of wonder, kindness, heroism, and brilliance? But other days, we wake to a conviction that the world is miserly and ugly, that the people around us are malevolent and small-minded, that the mole on our shoulder is cancerous, that our past is wasted, and our future is bleak.

Should We Dispense With Happiness? A Review of Marty Seligman's New Book, Flourish

I recently published a review of Marty Seligman's new book, Flourish, in the journal Nature. It had to be significantly abridged, and I provide the original version below.

Are Some of Us Too Nice to Our Partners?

In Poor Richard's Almanack, the incomparable Ben Franklin wrote, "Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, and half shut afterwards." He was right, but only to a point.

Does the “Pay It Forward” Effect Really Exist?

Does the "pay it forward" effect really exist? How does generosity inspire others? Is giving really better than receiving? We're going to find out. 

Can Money Buy Happiness or Steal From It?

in my mind, one of the biggest misconceptions about money is that it can't make us happy - or rather, that the joys it offers can be only faint and fleeting. As it happens, a growing social science of money is showing how we can compensate for some of its damaging effects by getting the most out of our spending. The conclusion is that if we want to buy happiness, we need to wring as many rewarding and stretching experiences from our purchases as possible.

Why Don’t Kids Make Us Happy?

Why does having kids reduce our happiness? When posed on his late-night eponymous show, Stephen Colbert deemed the answer obvious: "Because children are a pain in the ass."Undoubtedly they are, but I think the question is worth exploring further.  

How Quickly We Adapt: The Case of Obama

Do you remember what the 2008 presidential election felt like?  Do you remember the moment you realized that an African-American candidate, peddling hope and change, had a bona fide shot at winning the White House? Notwithstanding your party affiliation - was that not electrifying?How quickly we forget.

Happiness and Television: What My Family Learned from "Chopped"

Most nights, our children beg us to stage messy and elaborate food challenges – just like the ones featured on their favorite show "Chopped."

What If You'd Never Met?

I met my husband, Peter, rather randomly, at all-the-Absolut-you-could-drink benefit for the Museum of Contemporary Art. Had we not met that night, we probably never would have ever chanced upon each other. Had one of us ventured several footsteps to the right or the left that evening, my husband, my children and my home might be subtracted from the life I lead today.

Is There Anything To Be Happy About In Today's News?

Is there anything to be happy about in today’s news?  As a scientist and an Obama supporter, these days I sometimes don’t know whether to laugh or cry.  Every other news headline appears to send a contradictory message.  One warns of the economy in free fall, sending jitters, another about the Obama administration recommitting to serious science or eradicating some nasty piece of legislation loitering from the last 8 years, prompting cheers.

When Everyone Loses

The New York Times published an op-ed piece of mine titled "Why We're Still Happy" (Dec 27, 2008). Because it was cut substantially, I thought I'd post the original here.

How To Remain Happy When the Financial World Crumbles

Sometimes I think our country has gone nuts.  We have collapsing financial markets, unprecedented housing foreclosures, $4 gas, and an emperor without any clothes on perambulating in the midst of an incredibly critical presidential election.  But despite everything, many people (myself included) have a remarkable capacity to maintain optimism and confidence and even some cheer – about ourselves and the world around us.

Can Anything in Life Ever Surpass Winning 14 Gold Medals?

As I was watching Michael Phelps receive his 14th gold medal—what a week!—this is what I was thinking: “How could anything in this 23-year old swimmer’s life ever top this?” And: “After he comes down from the high, will he ultimately end up less happy than the rest of us mere mortals?”

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