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71 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars well-needed, fair and balanced book on the science of happiness
The first thing you should ask yourself is why on earth do we need another happiness book? David Myers wrote the Pursuit of Happiness in 1992, Martin Seligman wrote Authentic Happiness in 2002, and then Sonja Lyubomirsky wrote the How of Happiness and Marci Shimoff wrote Happy for No Reason in 2007. Then there are dozens of other books on the topic in the last 3 years...
Published on September 8, 2008 by Todd B. Kashdan

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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Happiness Analysis
"Happiness": Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth" by Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener contain some detailed evidence of how happiness indirectly affects quality of life. I found out about this title through a amazon book search on happiness, and the previous reviews also compelled me to buy it. It was challenging for me to rate this only three stars because...
Published on December 17, 2011 by Stella Carrier


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71 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars well-needed, fair and balanced book on the science of happiness, September 8, 2008
This review is from: Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth (Hardcover)
The first thing you should ask yourself is why on earth do we need another happiness book? David Myers wrote the Pursuit of Happiness in 1992, Martin Seligman wrote Authentic Happiness in 2002, and then Sonja Lyubomirsky wrote the How of Happiness and Marci Shimoff wrote Happy for No Reason in 2007. Then there are dozens of other books on the topic in the last 3 years. Do we really need another one?

My initial answer was absolutely not until I read this book. Ed Diener is the first scientist to devote a career to studying the nature of happiness. After 30 years of conducting research on the topic, he IS the authority on the topic and its about time he wrote a book. As for his son, Robert Biswas-Diener, he has been out in the field conducting the exotic, exciting research in various cultures that everyone else writes about. Why not hear about the nuances of their work from them instead of watered-down, overly simplified versions by others?

There are several chapters in this book that do a killer job at addressing the complexity of what we know and don't know about happiness.

Chapter 6 is about money and happiness. Forget the soundbites you hear that if you make more than $40,000/year, an increase in money is irrelevant to happiness. The Dieners' dig into the data, providing a fair and balanced analysis of the situations when money is relevant to happiness.

Chapter 7 is about spirituality and religion. Another topic that has been reduced to a useless soundbite that being religious is good, end of story. Again, the Dieners' dig further into the research than their predecessors. They toe the line perfectly of what the research says and doesn't say.

Chapter 8 is about how happiness operates in different countries and cultures. A point often missed except for intriguing data showing that we should all be living in Denmark (happiest place in the world?). Like other chapters, they describe scientific studies like a novelist. Interesting, informative, and thought provoking. Interspersed with personal stories of Robert's travels, it reminds you that science needs good storytellers and the Dieners' fit the bill.

Another topic that has been shortchanged by soundbites is the idea that humans have this amazing ability to adapt to life circumstances. Thus, happiness is hard to hold onto (sound familiar?). I honestly believe that the way adaptation is discussed in this book will change the way people will discuss and teach this topic. I was amazed that they were able to distill the information in layperson terms but they did it.

This is what they do best: take complex issues with multiple points and caveats, and write about them in a way that's interesting and easy to digest. It will be easy for readers to miss the subtle new interpretations of old ideas. They do a great job of shredding apart soundbites tossed around by journalists, other authors, and the mob of people interested in positive psychology or happiness. Insights are assured by a close reading of this book.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-Balanced, Scientific Book on Happiness, November 9, 2009
This review is from: Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth (Hardcover)
I was always wondering if Ed Diener would get around to writing a happiness book for the popular read. For those not in the know, Ed Diener is one of the most well-known happiness researchers out there- and has been contributing to the positive psychology field for literally decades by adding piles of his own research papers to the ever growing stack of happiness studies. Based on a lot of his work that I have read, I figured the book would be pretty sceintific-minded. And I was right- you'll find no baloney here.

"Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth" contains over 250 pages explaining in layman's terms, more or less, just about everything you ever wanted to know about happiness. Some of the more interesting topics covered include:

-health and happiness
-happiness and social relationships
-happiness at work
-money and happiness
-spirituality and happiness
-the happiest places on earth
-the genetic set point and happiness

Perhaps the most impressive thing I found in this book was the author's attitude about happiness. Here are people who have spent years researching happiness, and yet they seem to have put it all in a sensible perspective. Consider this:

--happiness is something to shoot for most of the time, but negative emotions serve a useful purpose as well on occasion

--while happiness can be reaching a desirable place, such as having good health, a successful carreer and a great family, don't overlook the process side of happiness in the pursuit of the good life (this is also a major point of another favorite happiness book of mine Happier: Can You Learn to be Happy?). In other words, happiness isn't only a destination, but also the journey.

--happiness isn't JUST about feeling good, it is also good for you in a number of other surprising ways

What more can I say? For anyone looking for a detailed, well-balanced, scientific look at happiness, its a great read. If you're not into the research-side as much, try "Finding Happiness in a Frustrating World".
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding book about the nature of happiness., September 8, 2008
By 
This review is from: Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth (Hardcover)
This is a fascinating book, packed with concise, accessible discussions of the major issues in the science of happiness. I read a lot on this topic, and I learned a huge amount.

The connection between money and happiness (more complicated than many people admit), the connection between spirituality and happiness, the happiness "set-point," and dozens of other intriguing questions are tackled.

The book does a particularly good job of presenting these issues thoroughly and accurately, but also in engaging language that's not hard to fight your way through.

A great addition to the many books that tackle this topic: like Stumbling on Happiness, The Paradox of Choice, Strangers to Ourselves, Authentic Happiness, etc.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessing the Science of Happiness, September 16, 2008
By 
Douglas B. Turner (Washington, DC Metro) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth (Hardcover)
Can money buy happiness? (See chapter 6). Are happier people healthier? (See chapter 3). Do happier people get paid more? (See chapter 5). Are religious / Spiritual people happier? (See chapter 7). Are some people just born happier? (See chapter 9). These are all components of the concept of psychological wealth.

In their new book, Happiness, Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, Ed Diener and his son Robert Biswas-Diener take on these and other provocative questions. In a very thorough but thoughtful way the Dieners draw on the most current research in the field of Positive Psychology to answer these questions. Sometimes the answers are "yes" sometimes the answers are "no" and sometimes the best and most honest answer is "it depends."

Psychological Wealth

The Dieners define psychological wealth as "your true net worth, and includes your attitudes toward life, social support, spiritual development, material resources, health, and the activities in which you engage." Hence psychological wealth incorporates more than just one's finances. The components of psychology wealth help us understand why some people may be financially poor but are rich in terms of psychological wealth and happiness while others can be fantastically financially wealthy but have very little psychological wealth and are miserable.

The Dieners explore the research findings that are related to each of the components of Psychological Wealth:
- Life satisfaction
- Spirituality and meaning in life
- Positive attitudes and emotions
- Loving social relationships
- Engaging activities and work
- Values and life goals to achieve them
- Physical and mental health
- Material sufficiency to meet our needs.

For example, as it turns out, (contrary to the oft repeated old adage), money CAN buy some happiness - to a degree - it depends. Yes, other people DO, in fact, matter. In the end, the Dieners say, "psychological wealth is about having a balanced portfolio. This book provides an overview of the elements of psychological wealth that research reveals are good investments."

Four Parts

The book is divided into four parts. Part one focuses on understanding true wealth and the explanation of the concept of psychological wealth. Part two is focused on why happy people function better physically, socially, and at work. Part three digs deeper into the other components of psychological wealth including money, religion/spirituality, culture, and "the happiness set point." Part four pulls everything together and provides a series of surveys and questionnaires for the reader to take to measure one's own psychological wealth.

Science can be fun

If you think all this science and research results in a dull, dry book to read, think again. This book is absolutely a delight to read. The Dieners have made the science very accessible and practical. You will love the stories they weave into the text - both the stories about themselves and the stories about the people they have studied. The Dieners take us along on their adventures around the world. From Africa to the Arctic to the Amazon, we tag along as they unlock the mysteries of happiness. As you read the book you come to understand why Ed is known as the "Jedi Master of Happiness" and why Robert has been called the "Indiana Jones of Psychology." Get the book, settle into a comfortable chair, buckle your seatbelt, and enjoy the ride.

Parting Quote

The Dieners conclude their book by wishing us all happiness and psychological wealth, "If you are high in psychological wealth, congratulations on a life that is well-lived. If you are impoverished, or poorer than you would like to be, now is the time to increase your [psychological] wealth, and hopefully this book has given you knowledge to help you get started." It does, it undoubtedly does.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A comprehensive, well-researched manual, August 25, 2009
This review is from: Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth (Hardcover)
This book is written by a father-son team, Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener. Both have done extensive research in the happiness field, with latter collecting data--often in a fairly unconventional manner--from around the world. They chose to focus their book on the concept of psychological wealth, which includes not only happiness but also additional factors such as one's attitude towards life, social support, material resources, and other influences. The authors lay out their book in several parts. Part I simply expands on the concept of psychological wealth and the principles that define it. Parts II and III form the core of the book: in Part II, the authors make the case that happy people function better, particularly in the areas of health, social relationships, and work, and in Part III, they examine the specific causes of happiness. Finally, the last section of the book, Part IV, involves putting everything together, including summarizing the previous concepts and providing various measures of psychological wealth.

The authors write in a style that is clear and accessible to a general audience; furthermore, they frequently infuse humor into their work. But less than halfway through the book, I found myself to be surprisingly bored. One of the main ways in which the authors lost me is that they tend to overstate their case to the readers; often I found myself having a reaction along the lines of "yes, yes, I get it already!" In fact, in Chapter 13, "Living Happily Ever After," the authors offer short summaries of each of the key chapters from Parts II and III of the book, and I found these brief synopses sufficient to convey the most salient and necessary points. Another issue I had is that I'm not sure who, exactly, is the appropriate audience for this book. For the mental health professional like myself (I'm a clinical psychologist), the authors do offer a few new insights into the factors which contribute to psychological wealth, but as mentioned above, they are quite slow to make their points. For the more general reader, the authors provide little in the way of practical applications of their research, with the exception of their AIM theory, or how one chooses to direct one's attention. Unfortunately, the AIM model does not seem significantly different from the concept of Learned Optimism introduced by the founder of positive psychology, psychologist Martin Seligman, well over 15 years ago.

I certainly respect Diener and Biswas-Diener as well as admire the amount effort they have each put into their life's work. Unfortunately, however, I think that this book fails to truly convey the importance and excitement of that work to the reader. Therefore, my final rating is 3 1/2 stars.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent scientific/ humanistic assessment of happiness research, February 23, 2009
By 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth (Hardcover)
(for anyone wondering where I'm coming from with this review, my Ph.D. is in marketing and psychology)

Usually I'm a bit skeptical of these sorts of books- even top notch researchers tend to "dumb down" the material for general audiences, and the research findings can get lost in the stories. Not here, however. Dr. Diener does an excellent job of describing the current state of psychological research on happiness, in a way that both laypeople and scientists can appreciate. Short on jargon, and interwoven with informative personal stories, the book makes for a great read. The one thing I disliked was the lack of references within the text; sometimes I had to guess what the cite referred to by scanning the references in the back of the book.

I won't get into all the specifics, as other reviewers have addressed the content of the book. However, it was really cool to see a balanced and nuanced treatment of controversial questions such as "does money buy happiness?", and how one can go about increasing his or her own happiness without buying into the latest fad. Of all the books I've looked at about "happiness", I'd strongly recommend this one both to laypeople interested in how they can improve their own happiness, as well as academic researchers looking for cool research ideas.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Secret of Psychological Wealth, April 26, 2010
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This review is from: Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth (Hardcover)
"George Vaillant, in his decades-long study of Harvard graduates, found that happiness is having lots of people whom you love, and who love you in return." ~ pg. 58

Have you lost your happiness? Did you feel happy for months at a time and then feel completely depressed? I have always been a fairly happy person but I've also encountered debilitating depression. So I know the difference between the two extremes. I've also figured out what makes me unhappy and what makes me the happiest I've ever been. Being loved unconditionally is the happiest feeling for me.

I'm sure you have studied your life in a similar way. Perhaps when people are overly critical of you, you feel angry and that turns into depression. Or maybe like me this year, you remembered everyone on Feb 14 and no one sent you a card. I admit that I never really tried to remember "everyone" before so it was probably a surprise to most people when they got a card from me. Being forgotten can however be a little unnerving especially when the people I remembered do a good job of saying they love me at other times of the year.

But the real question is: "Will reading THIS book make you happy?" To be honest, there is a lot of analysis of pertinent data. There is however somewhat of a lack of practical suggestions that you might expect at the end of each chapter. Instead there is a summary of the points or at least a paragraph or two about conclusions reached after the analysis is presented. At the end of the book there is another section that summarizes the entire book.

Do you wish you felt less anger, sadness, guilt, fear, anxiety or jealousy? The authors of "Happiness" say that these feelings are normal even if you are a happy person. They claim they have a purpose. I personally feel that most people would rather be rid of them so they can feel the freedom of happiness. And yet, maybe we would all become bored if our life was too easy or happiness wasn't so elusive. The authors of this book claim that most people in the world are "mildly" happy. They also seriously caution against being hyper happy or euphoric. Apparently that has some dangers of its own that could cause you an earlier death.

If you think money can't bring you happiness then you may be surprised by some of the excellent research revealed in "Happiness." I had always thought that people in poor countries were actually happier but that has been disproved by the authors.

So should you buy yourself a pair of rose-colored glasses (as I did a few days ago) and think yourself into a state of happiness or is there some practical suggestion that will lead you to a much more pleasing life? Some of the ideas given in this book might help if you are willing to write down goals, improve intimate relationships, work on your spirituality and focus on wise choices.

Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener believe that real wealth is being happy so it is a very worthy goal. Together they have written a pleasantly creative work with a few moments of humor. They encourage the reader to try to feel love, compassion and gratitude. And if you still can't get happy they suggest you change your attitude slightly.

Well since happier people have stronger immune systems and depressed people are more likely to have a heart attack, this book may save your life. Of all the books I've recently read on happiness, I think I like this one the best.

~The Rebecca Review
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Happiness, as simple as possible, but not simpler..., November 26, 2008
This review is from: Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth (Hardcover)
Does money buy happiness? Does religion make you happy? What about marriage or children? What are the benefits of happiness? Is happiness genetically determined? Can you be too happy? If you want an easy one-sentence sound bite answer to questions like these, stop reading. If however you are interested in a well-balanced scientific view on the matter, you might want to take a second look at "Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth" by Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener.

This publication is not your regular "10 steps to happiness" self-help book. This 250 pages read oozes with rigorous happiness research. Both authors have a combined happiness research experience of more than half a century. You can feel that they really live and breathe their science instead of just regurgitating article abstracts, and Ed Diener belongs to the happy few that have access to the priceless Gallup World Poll database. So this father-son couple really knows a thing or two about the science of happiness.

Most of the truckloads of happiness books out there try to make you as happy as possible. They embody an "optimizer" view on happiness. This publication is different. It is OK to be, say, quite happy without incessantly jumping around for joy. This book takes a "satisfyer" stance on the subject. Now it happens that research by Barry Schwartz shows that satisfyers eventually end up happier. So by not hardselling you happiness, this book might really make you happier eventually.

For a scientific book, this work is quite easy to digest. Academics might regret the lack of footnotes in the text, but many researchers are fairly mentioned by name. On the other hand, not every reader might want to know the details about the tattoos on the authors' body parts, or about how to cook a delicious bowl of cockroaches. But these parts make the book an entertaining read, occasionally bubbling with humour, which might offer you some extra fleeting moments of, well, happiness.

If you've never read a book about happiness, this one is definitely a good start. If your bookshelf shows off "Stumbling on Happiness" by Dan Gilbert or "The How of Happiness" by Sonja Lyubomirsky, just to mention a few, this one should be in your collection. And if you're looking for something to insert between your "Handbook of Positive Psychology" and your "Positive Psychology in a Nutshell", this one might perfectly do the job.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard research, no hype and reasonable approaches to what happiness is and how to achieve it, October 26, 2008
This review is from: Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth (Hardcover)
Happiness is one of those abstract ideas that no one can define; yet everyone is pretty clear about when they experience it. In this book, the authors report on extensive research on the role that happiness has in the human experience. While some of the results are a-priori pretty obvious, there are a few that will surprise you at first reading and afterward make significant sense. For example, in general happier people tend to live longer than unhappy people. No surprise there. However, the very happiest people do not live the longest, it is the group at the second highest level on the happiness scale that live the longest. The author's argument, and it is a sensible one, is that people that are too happy tend to take a few more chances and are less likely to recognize and heed danger signals.
The fact is that a bit of unhappiness is a cleansing agent; it causes humans to reevaluate their circumstances and improve their adjustment to their particular corner of the world. The authors argue that the person who claims to be happy at all times is either lying, too easily gratified or mentally ill. A point that any reasonable person would have to agree with, no life is free of stress and difficulties. Furthermore, the argument is also put forward that experiencing difficulties and resolving them is a fundamental component of happiness. There are few things more gratifying than the realization that you have battled your way out of a significant difficulty.
I approached this book with a bit of trepidation, as so many of the books about happiness are laden with superlatives, uppercase and bolded words and psychological fluff. That is not the case here, this is a reasoned approach to the concept of happiness, quantitative where possible, reasonable and honest at all times.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Pursuit of Happiness, September 9, 2008
By 
This review is from: Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth (Hardcover)
Our Founding Fathers stated that human beings are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Each one of these words has been questioned: When does "life" begin? Does someone's "liberty" constitute a threat to others? What is this "happiness" that we are all pursuing?

This valuable book goes a long way in addressing and answering the "happiness" question. There are many many books about this topic, so why read this one? Perhaps because it is even handed, scientific, easily readable, authoritative, and will inform and enrich you. I generally don't read books like this, but this one is exceptional.
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Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth
Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth by Ed Diener (Hardcover - September 9, 2008)
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