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Does our definition of happiness restrict us from having a satisfying life?

"The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, But Doesn't, What Shouldn't Make You Happy, But Does" by Sonja Lyubomirsky
Penguin Group (USA)
This picture taken on September 12, 2012 shows a couple embracing by a riverside.
AFP/AFP/Getty Images

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We may understand that outward circumstances do not define happiness, but UC Riverside psychology professor Sonja Lyubomirsky believes most of us associate certain life events with happiness or misery. These preconceptions, or misconceptions, restrict us from a satisfying life.

In her new book, “The Myths of Happiness,” Lyubomirsky draws from scientific research to show how expectations from life events such as a new romantic relationship, having children, and achieving financial stability lead to a “happiness spike” that will not last long. Our emotional responses to adversity in the form of health problems, not having a life partner, and financial struggles are short-sighted and need to be brought into perspective. This book emphasizes that people are adaptable and will return to their initial happiness level, whether it be from the surprises in a new relationship becoming more routine and predictable, or forgetting why negative experiences were unbearable.

Can happiness be biologically understood? Does surprise and variety determine happiness? And does routine lead to indifference? Is long-term passion possible?


Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at UC Riverside and author of "The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, But Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, But Does" (Penguin)