Articles of Interest on Happiness

Hi Everyone,

I found this article in the Atlantic this morning called “We’re Learning the Wrong Lessons From the World’s Happiest Countries.” I thought maybe some classmates would find it interesting. One of the key takeaways: "People are more satisfied with their lives when they have a comfortable standard of living, a supportive social network, good health, the latitude to choose their course in life, and a government they trust. "

So while we strive to follow the habits and avoid the sins, there is an underlying premise that we enjoy a standard of living that offers some comfort and security.

What do you think?

The Atlantic Article



I’ve read a few articles recently that have proved interesting. Raj’s articles on the psychologytoday website are worth a look. The recent ones on how to cope with covid are obviously relevant.

Related to week 4 of the course, this recent article in Forbes on ‘How To Take Radical Responsibility For Your Happiness And Success’ sets out the ideas in a clear and concise way.

Another article in The Atlantic that is relevant is ‘The Cognitive Biases Tricking Your Brain.’ It got me thinking that understanding these biases could help. However, when I see the wikipedia entry for cognitive biases, which the article linked, there are around 185 different biases, the vast majority of which I have never heard of. It led my down many rabbit holes, trying to understand things like Pareidolia, plant blindness, the rhyme as reason effect, The Baader–Meinhof phenomenon and others. There seem to be a lot of biases that need to be overcome.


Like the idea of a global, universal income for all adults!


Dear Raylin,
First of all, thank you so much for sharing the article and your insights and questions derived from it. I read the article and I’ve found it pretty useful.

I think that there are 3 dimensions of happiness; Genetic, internal and external. Once I read that genetic factors are responsible for wobbling 50% our happiness but I don’t have further knowledge about this.

Second is internal happiness that affects our sense of well-being. I think that the habits and sins that we learn in the ALOHAF are related to internal happiness. We can help for maximizing our internal happiness by following these tenets.

Third is about what is mentioned about article. There are external factors that affect our happiness as well. I have to admit that I don’t think that you can be truly happy without satisfying these external factors.

To describe these external factors we should look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. As it’s seen the graph below, there are hierarchy of human needs stacked in levels of a virtual pyramid. Let’s say self-actualization is the point which one can truly enjoy happiness. To reach this point, one should secure material things such as personal security (to not afraid of getting killed by a terrorist, mafia or law inforcement such as police or military guards or being able to reach affordable and good healthcare ), financial security (having a secured job and income), and secured freedom (being able to freely express your identity even you are minority in gender, race, politic etc.) that are mentioned in the Atlantic’s article.

As a conclusion, we can increase our level of happiness by following the habits and avoiding the sins, but as you said, there is an underlying premise that we enjoy a standard of living that offers some comfort and security.


Hamish, interesting. I looked at your references, the cognitive biases was riveting…amazing, so much to be aware of. The temptation is to say these are in someway ‘bad’ but I dont think thats the case, if we had no biases…what would we be like? Empty shells, robots. In a way the biases are part of the brains ability to create shortcuts…not always good of course, Thanks Kevin


Hi Kerem,

Yes! That’s exactly what I was thinking about. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It seems to me that if someone is in survival mode with limited physiological needs and limited safety needs, it can be very difficult to focus on happiness. I mean, I know that people who suffer greatly can also have happiness and joy, but it is a challenge to focus on when you don’t know when/where your next meal is coming from or if you are going to get bombed tonight or tomorrow.

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Great articles Hamish! Thank you for posting them. I loved the one on Cognitive Biases: actor-observer bias (“the tendency for explanations of other individuals’ behaviors to overemphasize the influence of their personality and underemphasize the influence of their situation … and for explanations of one’s own behaviors to do the opposite”) to the Zeigarnik effect (“uncompleted or interrupted tasks are remembered better than completed ones”).


In yesterday’s live session was about romantic relationships, two things stood out for me (in my mental fog of some side effects from the AZ vaccine and coming off 5 hours straight Zoom teaching just before I joined). One was the volcanic eruption of passionate love (lust?) followed by a lava-filled plateau of companionship, and the other was about culture and, as an old professor of mine would describe it, ‘the pitfalls of generalization.’

This article in Psychology Today from 3 days ago gives a different picture of romantic love, arguing that it is often a way ‘to heal a core childhood wound.’ I’ve always thought that all relations, whether romantic, platonic or familial, are different and unique in their own ways, so is generalization really possible? What Raj said about compatibility reminded me of something that Tolstoy wrote: ‘What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are but how you deal with incompatibility.’ Friedrich Nietzsche similarly saw it as ‘not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.’

And this article from a special issue on Love in Psychology Today looks at cross-cultural psychology and examines how culture ’ culture dictates how we speak about and experience the universe, far more than we realize.’ I like the Portuguese expression ‘Cafuné’. I’m sure it would mean much more to Fabio than to me.

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Interesting in our discussion, and your article, I found how culture influences relationships in a different ways. I liked the inclusiveness of male and female energies in person, referred to someone friday about Hinduism. There are more different cultures alongside, so generalisation is not really possible.

About the story of finding the soul mate Raj talked about: I know I have met more than one. You sometimes remeet people for just enough time to sort old stuff out and then go further. Sometimes or often (?) this maybe even won’t happen in a life experience. But that is ok too. There is also a difference between a soul mate and a twin soul mate. The last is even more rare to find. Happens when you had a lot of lives if you believe this time in rebirth…

About attachment I want to say, normal relationships have different stages (5?) to go through with every person getting older. Maybe someone knows a good book on relationships. They usually have a crisis getting in a new stage. The first stage has a blind spot more for problems to be able to begin attachments. In Western culture it is maybe more normal to then seperate; say you don’t fit each other. In other cultures arrangement might be a help. There are also maternalistic cultures.

I have started reading for the rest now I find an amazing book related to habits: Atomic Habits (James Clear). What Raj warned was about working on goals. From this book I read that the process how you identify yourself is what makes things happen. I will never achieve a tidy place if I still think I am a mess…
Comes handy then prioritising happiness instead of the goal happiness… With love it will be the same. Then you can talk about baby steps.

I didn’t dare to talk friday, because I am trying to catch up with stuff. I look at the talks to encourage me to catch up.

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