Summary of Happiness by Design

Change What You Do, Not How You Think

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Happiness by Design book summary
Make yourself happy by paying attention to – and doing more of – the activities that bring you purpose and pleasure.


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Behavioral Science Professor Paul Dolan defines happiness as “experiences of pleasure and purpose over time.” To become happier, pay attention to what makes you happy and do more of it. That advice sounds simple, but it can be hard to implement because your “mistaken desires, projections and beliefs” block your way to happiness. Another impediment to happiness are distractions, both from your internal thoughts and external environment. To pinpoint what makes you happy use the “day reconstruction method.” Record your daily activities and activity partners and rate each activity’s pleasure and purpose on a numerical scale. Dolan’s psychological terminology can be daunting, but he provides a unique perspective on happiness and its meanings. getAbstract recommends his conclusions to academics interested in happiness and to anyone seeking greater joy and fulfillment.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why experiencing happiness requires both pleasure and purpose,
  • What can impede happiness, and
  • How to be happier.


Defining Happiness
Happiness stems from your “experiences of pleasure and purpose over time.” In most surveys about happiness, the questions used to measure it are vague and abstract, like, “Overall, how satisfied are you with your life?” Many studies break down “life satisfaction” into...
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About the Author

International expert on happiness, behavior and public policy Paul Dolan, PhD, is a Professor of Behavioral Science at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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    Kathryn Hill 6 months ago
    It doesn't make me happy that of those people in the study, the activity that was most pleasurable with least purpose was watching TV. I wish it was something involving self-reflection instead of disconnection.
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    Erica Johnson 6 months ago

More on this topic

Contained in Knowledge Pack:

  • Knowledge Pack
    Happiness Research
    What does it take to make people really happy? Big hint: it`s not money, fame, sex or glory.

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