The Happiness Equation by Nick Powdthavee

This is one of the most unique books that I have ever read. Unique from two persepectives; firstly, the subject matter. It attempts to break down the inuerate and untimately immensely variable factors that we assume to influence our happiness into a relatively simple equation. Secondly, because in so doing, it still remains, surprisingly, accessible and even enjoyable.

One of the reviews accompanying the book refer to it as “readable and incisive” and I have to agree. I have read many tomes on the reasons, components and influences on happiness and many others that aim to provide us with tools and techniques to address the various emotional states that we encounter other than one of permanent happiness and bliss; NLP, Eastern mystical texts, managing emotional intelligence and the like.

This book looks at the subject from a completely different angle namely that our happiness is the simple, and prove-able, result of component aspects of our lives.

I was particularly interested in the first sections of the book that investigate the relationship between money and happiness. Whether this is a modern-day phenomonenon is a personal debate, maybe the general reduction in the influence of the church, the levelling of social strata and the general spread of democratic political systems are too grand to be conceived on a daily basis but Mr Powdthavee personalises the subject in a very accessible way. Maybe it is not the absolute levels of money that deliver happiness?

Maybe it is not as direct relationship as we would assume? These matters are covered eloquently and with humour. Is it that we feel relatively happier depending which local or social criterium we choose to measure ourselves against?

There are intriguing equations and numerous charts and tables. In fact, the number and increasing complexity of some of these did, in fact, leave me, a man that still gets a thrill from spreadsheets and graphs, a little confused. This should not, however, put you off the book as the style of writing, the ability to draw on personal experience and the inciteful social analysis make the book an interesting and enjoyable read.

Chapters like Does Time Really Heal All Wounds and Just As Long As I Am Not The Only One “do what they say on the tin” and made me consider happiness in ways that I had previously not been encouraged, or even allowed, to so do.

It is not necessarily a book for the sun-lounger on the beach but I do recommend this to anyone looking for a novel assessment of happiness and more particularly looking to understand the component elements to “calculate” just how happy they are and potentially could be.

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This intelligent and entertaining book shows how the scientific study of happiness is changing the field of economics–and the world! –Daniel Gilbert, author of ‘Stumbling On Happiness’ and Professor of Psychology, Harvard University. Dr. Nattavudh (Nick) Powdthavee is a researcher in applied microeconometrics, happiness data, health economics, labour economics, experimental and behavioural economics at the University of York. Discussions of his work have appeared in over 50 major international newspapers in the past five years, including the New York Times and the Guardian, as well as on TV including Channel 5 News and The Wright Stuff.

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