How should we define happiness? How happy are we supposed to be? Or can we be? Does each of us have a genetically determined "normal" level of happiness? Will a new breed of drugs allow us to fine-tune our moods so that we are happy most of the time? If so, are there any dangers to this kind of long-term mood alteration?Fascinating research in a range of fields is providinHow should we define happiness? How happy are we supposed to be? Or can we be? Does each of us have a genetically determined "normal" level of happiness? Will a new breed of drugs allow us to fine-tune our moods so that we are happy most of the time? If so, are there any dangers to this kind of long-term mood alteration?Fascinating research in a range of fields is providing provocative answers to these and many more questions about what makes us happy and how we can control our moods. We are in the midst of a revolution in the understanding of how our brains work and the neural circuitry of our moods and general temperament. At the same time, we have entered a bold new age of pharmacology?the science of drugs?which is allowing drug-makers to craft molecules that are exquisitely tailored to produce desired mood-altering effects.In a lively and stimulating narrative, acclaimed science writer Stephen Braun takes readers to the frontlines of discovery in these areas and explores how this "brave new world" of mood manipulation will impact our lives. Based on extensive interviews with scientists at the forefront of research, as well as the compelling stories of many individuals and their personal experiences, The Science of Happiness presents an accessible, engaging, and balanced account of what we need to know as we enter this new era.Braun introduces us to the scientists and companies who are racing to create the next generation of Prozac-like drugs, exploring the controversy surrounding so-called "designer drugs" and why such drugs are likely to be even more widely used.He presents the idea of the happiness "set point"?the average level of happiness around which our daily mood fluctuates?and the respective roles played by our genes, our upbringing, and our daily life choices and experiences in determining our happiness profile. Introducing the provocative new field of Darwinian psychology, he explains why depression and anxiety can at times be necessary evils, providing important incentives for us to make changes in our lives that will improve our Darwinian fitness.Braun also offers a stimulating and insightful consideration of how the alteration of our moods affects the "self" inside us. When we alter the mechanics of our moods, do we also fundamentally change ourselves? Or can we find a way to tailor our emotional lives while retaining what we consider to be the essence of who we are?The Science of Happiness is an important and thoroughly engaging exploration of one of the most pressing issues facing society."Entertaining and Thorough."?Philadelphia Enquirer"Braun has a knack for interpreting the findings of medical researchers and applying them to daily life."?Library Journal"Braun manages to take abstract concepts and mold them into something highly readable. Science novices should find this book as enjoyable and well-written as those who have spent their lives working with biology or chemistry."?Publishers Weekly"...
|Title||:||The Science of Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Mood|
|Number of Pages||:||208 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
The Science of Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Mood Reviews
This is a reasonably readable book-length essay about medication for depression. It presents objective information, well-researched facts, and compelling history about Prozac and other antidepressants, their development, marketing and use. But really, and this is only revealed in an epilogue that the author scoots under the door after he’s already checked out, it’s about the author’s own struggle with defining happiness, with mistrusting pharmacological solutions to philosophical or spiritual problems, and about his own skepticism about medicating for depression. Knowing that he was grappling with the subject personally helped me (after the fact) understand the frame of his project better. The questions that drive each chapter (how effective is Prozac, what does happiness mean, does this work for people, how can I trust marketing and drug companies incentivized by profit to make the best drugs for individuals and society as a whole) make more sense when we realize he’s not asking for a theoretical friend of a friend. I found some ideas particularly useful: barring serious trauma, we all have a biological happiness set point, and no matter what happens in our lives, we tend to return to that point. So if you’re a sullen bastard, no amount of kale and yoga is going to budge that. There’s some relief from self-acceptance in that: there’s only so much you can do. Conversely, that resilience is reassuring. Terrible things will happen in your life, but you’ll basically be just as happy or miserable as you were beforehand after a couple of seasons. Three cheers for human adaptability! I also appreciated the critique of oversimplified hard pharmaceutical sells for chemistry-set happiness. Mental illness IS more spiritually and philosophically complex than other types of illnesses. This verbalized a frustration I’ve felt as I’ve lived through my husband’s death by suicide. Yes, he died because of the disease depression— but it was his choices that led him to make those last fatal steps. But only the disease would make make those choices. But his choices cultivated the disease and made it harder for him to stay alive. But the disease made him cut off other options!! It’s a terrible moral/medical Möbius strip and there are no good answers. I appreciated the nuanced view here: depression is complex. It’s causes, biology, treatment, and outcomes are all complex. Ultimately the author wrestles with, understands, and accepts the benefits of Prozac. I appreciated the thoughtful and thorough journey he brought us on.My favorite bits are below: “What does correlate with happiness are strong social connections, long-term loving relationship, I sense of optimism and openness to new experiences, the opportunity to pursue meaningful work, and spiritual belief or identification with an issue or idea larger than oneself.“ Page 36“The prevailing evidence, then, shows that humans have an internally generated happiness set point that is calibrated for most people at a slightly positive level, and that the setpoint mood and mood – regulating mechanisms account for both the long-term stability and evanescence nature of happiness.” P 51“Genes leave plenty of room for the exercise of free will and the pursuit of happiness via such traditional and well-founded routes as establishing long-term relationships, finding satisfying work, and maintaining good physical health.” Page 52. “Genes exert their most powerful influence on happiness…only when one’s environment is otherwise benign: when one’s basic needs have been met. This means that efforts to reduce stress, improve relationships, achieve peace and justice in society, and enhance health are vitally important and cannot be trivialized.… Such things as health, education, and love are necessary foundations for happiness, even if they are not in themselves sufficient for it attainment.” Page 52“scientists studying happiness acknowledge that their research suggests that these efforts are not all powerful. They are constrained by the biological foundations of the happiness setpoint. Temperament, outlook, emotional resilience, affect tolerance, energy, and capacity to engage in life’s challenges are all rooted in neurochemistry, in the flux of neurotransmitters, and in the health and complexity of one’s nuero-machinery.” Page 53“In some ways, we are like ghosts – – but we are created by and are utterly dependent on a ghost producing machine: the brain.“ Page 59“The number and strength of dendrites have everything to do with the health of the brain as a whole. When dendrites die – – from lack of use, stress, injury, or disease – – electrical signals they carry can disappear. Memories fade. Muscle coordination fails. Hormone production drops. Mood and personality change. Increase the number of dendrites, on the other hand, and the reverse effects are seen: cognitive abilities such as memory in the capacity for abstraction improve, coordination improves, and mental health returns. By stimulating dendritic spouting nerve growth factors play a critical role in brain health.” Page 67People with a lot of activity in the left prefrontal cortex are more outgoing and happy, while people with a lot of activity in the right prefrontal cortex are more anxious and depressed and withdrawn. Page 75.“Depressed moods are most often telling us that we are experiencing an unconscious crisis, frustration, breakdown, or problem that needs our attention.” Page 90“Our capacity for the unpleasant emotion of depression can be just as normal and just as vital for our health as our capacity for pain. Contrary to the prevailing attitude, in other words, depression is not necessarily an illness that must be cured at all costs. Indeed, completely wiping out ones capacity for depression with drugs – – as appealing as that might sound – – could be us ultimately harmful is wiping out once capacity to feel pain. A healthy person needs to be able to feel depressed – – because conflicts, frustrations, communication breakdowns, and all manner of other psychic difficulties that threaten our overall fitness are inevitable parts of the human condition.“ Page 94“Depression is a fundamentally valuable capacity of a healthy organism that we should alter cautiously. But it is equally true that appropriate use of drug or therapeutic interventions can relieve much unnecessary suffering. It is vitally important, in other words, to listen to depression, to consider whether it is it is telling us something important about our lives. But listening to depression can be confusing and frustrating not just because it can be hard to draw a line between necessary and unnecessary depression but also because depression is a set of symptoms arising from a bewildering number of causes.“Page 97“Depression or depressive feelings are always telling us something – – but exactly what is seldom clear, at least at the start. A given depression maybe saying something important about one’s life, one’s family, brain chemistry, or some combination of such factors.… Depression can be the normal response of a healthy psyche to psychological conflict, unresolved interpersonal problems, and life situations… And… Depression can also be a sign that I normally healthy brain is malfunctioning. “Page 100 the author goes on to describe that there are different “prisms” for viewing depression. For example biomedical that views depression as the result of defects in brain chemistry, or developmental which looks at bonding and attachment, and cognitive behavioral which looks at thought patterns and information processing, and socio-cultural prisms that look at poverty and injustice and political oppression causing depression. Also purely physical causes like certain vitamins and amino acids.“ The effort to gain psychological insight is a necessary part of overcoming depression,. That is because learning can’t be put into a pill. And it is learning that builds a mind and makes that mind useful to an individual.“ Page 104“Only learning adds lights, adds color, adds complexity, adds pattern. And there is simply no way to learn about one’s self without talking, listening, thinking, and wrestling with the conflicts, the fears, and the emotions that can arise in the process. “104“Research clearly suggests that we are born with a happiness set point that constrains our mood and emotional range. Contrary to the prevailing disease model of depression, however, depressive moods and other negative affects such as anxiety, fear, and anger are not necessarily defects of nature or illnesses. They are products of millions of years of natural selection and are designed to provide us with warning signals that something is amiss in our lives. The machinery of mood is complex and it can break in a huge variety of ways. But an over reliance on a strictly biological perspective on mood disorders can lead to mistaking a negative mood as a dysfunction when, in fact, it may represent a valid alarm being sounded by a healthy system.“ Page 135-136“The wise use of the new mood – altering drugs is made more difficult by the skewed presentation of both the drugs themselves and the problems they are intended to address. The monumental profit to be made from such drugs creates pressure on all aspects of drug development, testing, marketing, and regulation – – pressure that can lead to false or misleading claims about the drug’s safety and efficacy, and an unbalanced description of the nature of mental illness.“ Page 136“Perhaps the most basic issue facing everyone considering using a drug to enhance or correct their moods: what is the goal of such drug use? What mood or moods are people aiming at? Happiness? What, exactly, does that mean? How happy are we supposed to be? How happy can we be? Is there such a thing as a “optimal “mood? When should we be satisfied that we’re feeling about as good, in general, as we can?“ Page 136“The fact that nature and nurture feed upon each other means that even when a given case of mental illness begins as exclusively a biological problem, or exclusively a reaction to psychological trauma, the problem quickly “infects” the other sphere, resulting in a problem with both roots. “Page 144“When so-called negative moods are experienced fully, without repression or denial, and when they lead to appropriate changes in behavior, they can enhance overall well-being rather than eroding it. “Page 148“Happiness is not the same as being happy all the time. Rather, it is a state of being in which a person experiences the full range of human emotions and mood states that are appropriate for the moment and free of distracting stress or insufficient energy.“ Page 154“Better drugs for manipulating our moods could lead to a healthier happier Society – – if they are used wisely and with an appreciation for the holistic nature of human moods and with a respect for the essential utility of negative mood states in general.” Page 157
This book was interesting, but rather lengthy for the point it was trying to make. It was a discussion about mood altering drugs (e.g., prozac) and the possibility of the entire human population being on mood altering drugs in the future and if that would be a positive thing or a negative thing. While the discussion was interesting and he provided a lot of interesting information about how the brain functions, I feel he could have made the same points with a much smaller work (this was less than 200 pages).
Informative about the effects of drugs on people and how the brain works, but not any real information on what people can do to become happier, aside from (legal) drugs.
This book had some fascinating information on how the brain works, but most of it I skipped.