The Mysteries of Happiness

I think Tapestry is one of the CBC’s most consistently interesting programs. They often have fascinating, learned guests, and talk about topics of religion, spirituality, and culture that rarely get discussed in other secular or (relatively) unbiased settings.

I recently listened to an episode featuring Daniel Gilbert, Harvard professor and social psychologist. I’m a bit late on this, because I gather he wrote a bestseller last year called Stumbling on Happiness.

Gilbert was an articulate, clever, amusing guest–you really wished that host Mary Hynes would just keep her mouth shut so that he could keep talking. Hynes is usually an excellent interviewer, but I’m afraid she contributes very little to this particular conversation.

The book isn’t a handbook on how to be happy, but seems to be an examination of the past twenty years research on the subject. There are a number of compelling points that arose in the piece. Here are two:

  • We all have a default happiness setting, to which we tend to return. Events which seem to inspire great joy or sadness in fact have a much lesser, much briefer impact on our psyches than we imagine.
  • Parenting, statistically speaking, makes you less happy.

Anyhow, I’ve added Stumbling on Happiness to my list of books to buy. I’d definitely recommend that you give the CBC piece a listen, and watch this earlier talk Gilbert gave at TED. I wrote about Gilbert a while back, referencing a talk he gave at SXSW (MP3).


  1. I read it and highly recommend it. There was so much in it that I want to read it again.

  2. Ditto! I think this topic is fascinating.

    I’m reading Kingwell’s book on happiness (Better Living: In Pursuit of Happiness from Plato to Prozac) but I prefer Gilbert’s.

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