The Science of Happiness: this column will change your life!

The Science of Happiness: this column will change your life!

I just found this article in my archives; it's a few months old now but still interesting and still very much worth considering. I'm not sure I agree 100% with everything the writer says about happiness and the positive psychology research but, I definitely agree with some of it and definitely think that other aspects are thought provoking. So check it out and let us know what you think. It begins like this…

by Oliver Burkeman of The Guardian

Few sentences have irritated me more in recent weeks than this, from the jacket of The Procrastination Equation by the psychologist Piers Steel: "If you think you procrastinate because you're a perfectionist, you're wrong." Singling out Steel is harsh, I admit: he probably didn't write that line, and the book itself is great. Even the argument behind that sentence is persuasive: perfectionists are more likely to seek help for procrastination, he argues, because it offends their perfectionism, so researchers mistakenly imagine there's a causal link. But the jacket's tone encapsulates a position that's increasingly prevalent today – in David Cameron's "happiness index", in much coverage surrounding the launch of the (broadly excellent) Action for Happiness movement, and in 100 books on "the surprising science of" this or that. The position is this: that if scientific studies have reached a conclusion on some aspect of psychology, the argument's over. (And, yes, I know I rely on such studies in this column. "Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue" – La Rouchefoucauld.)

…and ends like this…

None of this is to suggest happiness science is worthless: going with the scientific evidence is usually advisable, especially if you're spending public money on policies to promote wellbeing. Nor should it provide solace for pseudoscientists, who peddle what looks like scientific evidence but isn't. Rather, it highlights the possibility of strategies for happiness that are neither science nor pseudoscience – a case made recently for psychoanalysis by the writer Robert Rowland Smith, who suggests that its focus on the unique properties of the client-analyst relationship might place it beyond meaningful experiment. And it shows that while the science of happiness may come close to understanding your mind, we shouldn't forget that it can never quite get all the way. In the final analysis, when it comes to your inner experience, no study (or dust-jacket) can conclusively tell you you're wrong.

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