The Happiness Hypothesis

RA Guy Adventures of RA Guy

“We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world.” -Marcel Proust

The Happiness HypothesisRheumatoid Arthritis Guy just finished reading a wonderful book. Every now and then I come across a book that, even before completing it, I know it will have a profound impact on the way I see things.

This was one of those books.

The Happiness Hypothesis, written by Jonathan Haidt.

Though this is not a book that you will find in the self-help section of your nearby bookstore, this collection of ten great ideas which look to find modern truth by weaving together ancient wisdom does indeed provide some of the best help that can be found in just over two hundred pages.

In his widely praised book, award-winning psychologist Jonathan Haidt examines the world’s philosophical wisdom through the lens of psychological science, showing how a deeper understanding of enduring maxims-like Do unto others as you would have others do unto you, or What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger-can enrich and even transform our lives.

Using the wisdom culled from the world’s greatest civilizations as a foundation, social psychologist Haidt comes to terms with 10 Great Ideas, viewing them through a contemporary filter to learn which of their lessons may still apply to modern lives. He first discusses how the mind works and then examines the Golden Rule (“Reciprocity is the most important tool for getting along with people”). Next, he addresses the issue of happiness itself–where does it come from?–before exploring the conditions that allow growth and development. He also dares to answer the question that haunts most everyone–What is the meaning of life?–by again drawing on ancient ideas and incorporating recent research findings. He concludes with the question of meaning: Why do some find it? Balancing ancient wisdom and modern science, Haidt consults great minds of the past, from Buddha to Lao Tzu and from Plato to Freud, as well as some not-so-greats: even Dr. Phil is mentioned. Fascinating stuff, accessibly expressed.

At a time when I am continue to reevaluate what happiness means in my life with chronic illness, I feel very fortunate to have been able to read this book during such a critical juncture. (Thanks to my psychologist for recommending this book to me!)

This book also has a corresponding website at, which includes additional book reviews, chapter summaries, and a page on how you can actually use this book as a self-help book should you choose to do so.

As a person living with rheumatoid arthritis, two things in particular stood out to me.

The first thing was Chapter 7, titled “The Use of Adversity”. We’ve often heard the saying that suffering makes some people stronger. This chapter is an exploration into this idea, and examines how some individuals are ultimately able to use adversity to their advantage, while other are not.

The second thing is a paragraph – taken from this same chapter – which sums up perfectly how writing this blog has helped me move forward when it comes to understanding my life, my chronic pain, and my illness. (Emphasis mine.)

And finally, no matter how well or poorly prepared you are when trouble strikes, at some point in the months afterwards, pull out a piece of paper and start writing. Pennebaker suggests that you write continuously for fifteen minutes a day, for several days. Don’t edit or censor yourself; don’t worry about grammar or sentence structure; just keep writing. Write about what happened, how you feel about it, and why you feel that way. If you hate to write, you can talk into a tape recorder. The crucial thing is to get your thoughts and feelings out without imposing any order on them – but in such a way that, after a few days, some order is likely to emerge in its own. Before you conclude you last session, be sure you have done your best to answer these two questions:

Why did this happen?

What good might I derive from it?

Here’s hoping that no matter what state we may find ourselves in at the moment, that we stop and take a minute to reflect on the happiness that exists inside each of us.

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!