Sometimes just reading about happiness makes me happy! ☺ - and Daniel Gilbert's highly entertaining book "Stumbling on Happiness" certainly made me happy.
Despite the third word of the title, this is not an instruction manual that will tell you anything useful about how to be happy. Those books are located in the self-help section. Instead, this is a book that describes what science has to tell us about how and how well the human brain can imagine its own future, and about how and how well it can predict which of those futures it will most enjoy. This book is about a puzzle that many thinkers have pondered over the last two millennia.
Not knowing what makes other people happy is one thing. But shouldn't we be able to figure out what will make ourselves happy? No, Gilbert argues, because we change over time; the person you are when you are imagining what it would be like to have that fancy new car is not the person you will be when you actually have that fancy new car.
He's also funny. "When we have an experience on successive occasions, we quickly begin to adapt to it, and the experience yields less pleasure each time," he writes. "Psychologists call this habituation, economists call it declining marginal utility, and the rest of us call it marriage."
It is such a well reasoned and written book on such an elusive subject that I thought I had better give you this appetiser before you rush out to buy it yourself:
Some of you are not big on reading, so have a listen instead: