Book review: Happiness from the Inside Out: The Art and Science of Fulfillment by Robert Mack.
This easy to read book describes many of the approaches I’ve used to make myself happier. That makes me somewhat tempted to believe the rest of his advice, but he seems to exaggerate enough that I have some doubts.
Being less concerned about what others think of me is an important part of his advice. But it seems implausible that I can be completely unharmed by other peoples opinions of me. He seems to believe that it’s possible to have a romantic relationship without risking being disappointed by one’s partner. I can somewhat reduce my emotional reaction to a partner not acting as I expected, but complete detachment would seem to make it hard for me to sympathize with a partner when appropriate.
There’s plenty of peer pressure for people to claim to be less susceptible to peer pressure than they actually are, so many people will be unaware of how to reduce those influences. This book’s focus on optimism is likely to distract people from such unflattering insights. You should look elsewhere for awareness of your desires for status, and choose wisely which status hierarchies you want to care about.
His paints a misleadingly gloomy picture of long-term happiness trends in the U.S., by selective evidence such as rising teen suicide rates, but not the fact that overall suicide rates are lower than a few decades ago.
His discussion of the genetic influence on happiness is unnecessarily discouraging. He mentions height as a stereotypical trait influenced by genes. I suggest thinking about hair color – it’s probably more influenced by genes than happiness, yet people who decide their hair should be purple often succeed quickly.
His claim that “Happiness is a particularly personal journey and no amount of data or research can tell you what will bring you happiness” is somewhat misleading – see the book Stumbling on Happiness for a very different perspective.