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Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile [Hardcover]

Daniel Nettle
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

12 May 2005
Everybody wants it. But what exactly is happiness? The pursuit of happiness has been recognized by everyone from poets to politicians as what makes the world go round. The world's largest and fastest-growing industries - alcohol, pharmaceuticals, mind altering drugs, self-help books, counselling, travel and tourism - all profit heavily from our intent to become completely happy with our lives. In the first comprehensive book to address this most basic of human desires, Daniel Nettle explores why we want to be happy, how we assess our levels of happiness, and the different ways that happiness is interpreted in different cultures. Using statistical information from the National Child Development Study, a project that has collected social and emotional data from thousands of people since 1958, Nettle shows the ways in which definitions and sources of happiness have changed over time.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; 1st Edition edition (12 May 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192805584
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192805584
  • Product Dimensions: 17.5 x 12.2 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 64,347 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

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Product Description


An authoritative, challenging, even profound analysis of the most up-to-date research into its subject. (Winston Fletcher, THES)

About the Author

Daniel Nettle is Lecturer in Biological Psychology at the Open University. He is the author of Strong Imagination: Madness, Creativity, and Human Value and co-author of Vanishing Voices (with Suzanne Romaine). He lives in the U.K.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great summary of current thinking on happiness 5 Jan 2007
Nettle summarises the various studies and statistics available on the subject of what make people happy. Importantly, he has a useful discussion on the types of happiness; feelings of joy, judging oneself to be happy, and realising one's potential. He focuses on the second, and crunches through the studies, also provding useful scientific explanations of how the brain works. Three of the most interesting things that stood out for me were that most people are actually happy, control within one's job is more important than income, and there is a distinct (biological) difference between wanting and liking. The latter is the root of addiction (and advertising), and also shows how getting what one wants may not lead to happiness.

I would have been interested in seeing a greater discussion on why the rates of depression are on the rise, yet most people are happy. Is it the case that the extremes of society are getting more pronounced? Or simply, we are more aware of depression than before. I also thought that his view that those who are neurotic (tendency to negative emotions) and introverted (closed to experiences) tend to be less happy was somewhat circular. This is the crux of the issue, that is, what causes what! Does being happy lead one to be less neurotic or the other way around?!

On balance, the book was informative, concise and life-enhancing
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Clear, sensible and useful 20 July 2005
By A Customer
This book is an enjoyable read, a good survey of the science, and actually useful in thinking about personal happiness. I won't say 'it changed my life', but it will influence the way I think about my wants, needs, and life choices.

I particularly liked the way that it was grounded in an evolutionary approach while holding back from some of the dafter aspects of 'sociobiology'. If you are searching for the meaning of life, you could do worse than start here.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The book tries to cover all the ways you could look at happiness from a non-emotional perspective. Are you happier when you're older/younger/slimmer/fatter/married/single? Is it genetic, and are there different kinds of happiness? The book tries to answer all these questions... and it does so with limited success. I found the book hardgoing in one part with too much statistical sociology information.

The part on how your brain works was fascinating, about how the different chemicals in your brain work to keep you happy/sad etc. Overall a good read, enlightening.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sane and entertaining 21 Jan 2007
By Slocum
This hand sized paperback by Daniel Nettle has it all: wisdom, wit, useful information, philosophical discourse, groundbraking psychology and, good old common sense. The subject is happiness (of course) and, from the very beginning of the book, some myths and misconceptions are challenged and dispelled and, taking their place appear the well reasoned arguments and conclusions from the author. If you enjoy a brilliant mind at work this book is for you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars LOVE it 14 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is wonderful and very uplifting. My only criticism was that, when discussing depression, it is spoken of as something that has been blown out of proportion and over-medicated. As a depression sufferer, I felt slightly misunderstood by this section. However, overall this book is flawless and easy to read. I couldn't distract myself from it.
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