Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #104: “Engineering Happiness” by Manel Baucells and Rakesh Sarin

Dear kids,

There’s a reason I like books about happiness so much. It’s that they’re all so different . . . and so practical. Besides, reading something that could potentially increase your long-term sense of well-being never seems like a waste of time.

Engineering Happiness: A New Approach for Building a Joyful Life by Manel Baucells and Rakesh Sarin is one of your choices in the genre. Enjoy.

My Highlights:

  • Studies based on these databases suggest that, across different countries, happiness is high among people with lots of friends, the young and the old, married and cohabiting people, the healthy, and the self-employed. Income has a moderate effect, although, as we will soon see, it is relative income that matters the most.
  • The Third Law—Aversion to Loss: Losses are felt more keenly than equivalent gains. This law is called the Law of Hedonic Asymmetry by the Dutch psychologist Nico Frijda, or Loss Aversion by Kahneman and Tversky.
  • The Fourth Law—Diminishing Sensitivity: Happiness is not proportional to the difference between reality and expectation; rather, the increase in happiness slows as reality moves further from expectation.
  • The Sixth Law—Presentism: We forecast that future preferences and emotions will be more similar to our current preferences and emotions than they actually will be. People rarely take into account that their preferences are going to change. In fact, preferences and emotions change more than we think. When they are in a heightened emotional state, people do not imagine that their intense feelings of anger will dissipate quickly.
  • Thich Nhat Hanh is a world expert in the study of anger. He suggests mindful meditation to control anger. For instance, when it comes to anger management, what is best: to burst or to contain? Shall we let ourselves be carried away by anger, so that anger goes away? Or shall we contain the anger? Which of the two strategies is more effective in reducing the likelihood of future anger outbursts? Research shows that the first strategy has a flaw. These anger outbursts, which might alleviate anger in the short run, make us more prone to become angry in the future, as attacks of anger become a habit. In contrast, holding back anger turns out to be smarter. For one thing, anger dissipates sooner than expected.
  • Again, incorporating strategies for daily emotional regulation can indeed increase happiness.
  • After a week of practice, you move to another pillar and focus your attention on making improvements on this new pillar. You should keep an eye on the other pillars that you have practiced in previous weeks, but your concentration should be fixed on improving one pillar at a time. When all pillars have been visited and practiced over a thirteen-week period, contemplate your progress and your resolution for improvement over the next cycle of thirteen weeks. Thus, over a year, you will have four cycles of practicing each of the thirteen pillars, and your happiness level will have improved. Here is an itemized list of the thirteen pillars, with some descriptive items listed for each of them.   1. MEALS: be peaceful, show gratitude, avoid overeating and overdrinking, eat with friends   2. SLEEP: sleep in a comfortable bed, let in fresh air, cultivate a quiet mind, recover from sleep deprivation   3. WORK: make your commute more pleasant, improve your relationships with coworkers, become more engaged with your work   4. RELATIONSHIPS: nurture your relationships with your family and friends, avoid toxic interactions   5. RECREATION: engage in regular exercise, learn some fun skills such as music or painting   6. CRESCENDO: be frugal, postpone expenses, save the best for last   7. SOCIAL COMPARISON: avoid envy, be modest, celebrate others’ successes, praise and give credit   8. GLASS HALF FULL: reframe, accept imperfections, emphasize positives   9. SMALL SIPS: space out your consumption, build craving, cultivate varied interests 10. CUMULATION: create meaning, set goals, fill the bucket 11. FORGIVENESS: avoid resentment, conciliate, seek pardon 12. BALANCE: find balance in your life among career, family,hobbies, and self-improvement 13. LEARNING TO LOVE: practice compassion, cultivate spirituality, help others.



Get the entire recommended reading list at Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday.


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