The Happiness Hypothesis

The search for happiness seems never-ending. How do we obtain it and how do we hold on to it?

In “The Happiness Hypothesis,” Jonathan Haidt provides a great theory on where happiness comes from.

Imagine you are in a situation where you need to choose between two difficult decisions. On the one hand, you know which decision to make. But then again, the other option is pulling you in a different direction. 

This is what Jonathan Haidt refers to as the elephant and the rider. 

Let’s start with the elephant. 

Not only is the elephant large in comparison to the rider, it includes things like emotions, intuitions, and gut feelings. The elephant will tend to act on instinct or impulse. 

The opposition to the elephant is the rider. The rider is more logical and advises the elephant on how to behave. But this conscious thought does not control the elephant by any means. 

There are times when the rider and elephant work well together. As humans, we know that this is not always the case though. Conflict arises when the elephant is no match for the rider. This is one of the reasons we sometimes feel divided within ourselves. 

Luckily, Jonathan Haidt says there are ways to “train” the elephant to move in certain directions. He provides interesting insight on how effective meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy, and Prozac can be. 

I have experienced changes in my automatic processes from meditation, so far. I’m very interested in the success of cognitive behavioral therapy as well. 

So, does happiness come from controlling the elephant?

Yes and no. 

Happiness can come from within. But it most prominently comes from within along with certain conditions outside of ourselves. 

Connections through love and work get converted into happiness. It is through a sense of meaning that we find happiness. 

He concludes by stating that religion and science shouldn’t be in opposition. Actually, we need both for a full understanding of the conditions of human satisfaction and human nature.

I would love to hear if you agree or disagree with the theories in “The Happiness Hypothesis.”

Comment below and thanks for reading!

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