Studying Happiness

Have you ever wondered, if self-help books truly work, why people buy one after another every few months?

I’m participating in a simple study of happiness (which ends 7 Aug 2009 but seems to welcome latecomers) connected to a forthcoming book, :59 seconds—Think a little, Change a lot, which claims to offer simple ways to achieve and feel happy based on research. (via Lone Gunman)

:59 Seconds exposes modern-day mind myths promoted by the self-help industry, and describes hundreds of techniques that help people achieve in minutes not months.

Based on a few conversations that I’ve had, an impression floats around out there that science has nothing to offer those of us seeking happiness. This impression may have its roots in the past where psychology focused on pathology. Only recently has psychology turned to studying human happiness, creating a branch known as positive psychology.

Even though the science looks promising, I doubt that it can deliver a Utopian future. Suffering may be an intrinsic part of human life. Yet I am driven to ameliorate it for myself and for others. Traditional ways of life hold many secrets of living happily, mixed with superstition and folly. I hope that scientific inquiry will separate the wheat from that chaff and provide new insights into what constitutes the good life.

I also doubt that this will be the self-help book to end all self-help books, but perhaps this is part of a nascent trend to subject the self-help culture and traditional lifeways to scientific scrutiny. I believe that will prove to be a good thing in the end.