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Mental Health
3 Min Read
Last Updated: 20.06.23

Arthur Brooks: The Science of Happiness

Arthur Brooks is a renowned social scientist and professor at Harvard University. Arthur delves into the science of happiness, dissecting its components and offering keys to a fulfilling life. He emphasizes the dangers of social comparison and worldly idols, providing practical exercises and guidance for lasting happiness and success.

Key Takeaways

High level takeaways from the episode.

Arthur teaches a semester-​​long class at Harvard Business School on happiness

  • Focuses on finding balance and abundance in the three dimensions of happiness

Fluid intelligence peaks in late 30s, while crystallized intelligence improves with age

  • Understanding this shift can help individuals optimize their strengths and adapt to changes in their abilities

Fluid intelligence: peaks in 20s and 30s, then declines

  • Involves problem-​​solving, creativity, and learning new things

Crystallized intelligence: peaks in 40s, 50s, and 60s, stays high in 70s and 80s

  • Involves teaching capacity, explaining, pattern recognition, and managing others

Three dimensions of happiness: enjoyment, satisfaction, and purpose

  • Enjoyment: pleasure plus elevation, creating lasting memories
  • Satisfaction: joy and reward for a job well done and goals met
  • Purpose: meaning in life, answering questions like “Why were you born?” and “For what are you willing to die?”

Having a purpose in life is important for happiness

  • Transcendental understanding of life: understanding something bigger than oneself

Importance of a strong partnership in marriage

  • Goal of marriage should be friendship
  • Couples should have common interests beyond their children

Loneliness vs. solitude

  • Loneliness can occur within a relationship
  • Solitude can be beneficial and not lonely

Importance of close, personal, lifelong friends

  • Necessary for those without a spouse or partner
  • Men often struggle with maintaining real friendships

Artistotle’s Levels of Friendship

  • Friendships of transaction
  • Friendships of admiration or beauty
  • Friendships of virtue

Friendships of transaction

  • Lowest level of friendship
  • Based on mutual benefit or work relationships

Friendships of admiration or beauty

  • Based on admiration for each other’s qualities

Perfect friendship or friendship of virtue

  • Inherently satisfying
  • Revolves around a shared interest or activity

Men often struggle with forming deep friendships

  • Men often focus on work and family, leaving little time for friendships

It’s possible to learn and improve social skills at any age

  • Requires commitment and effort
  • Must be open to vulnerability and taking an interest in others

Building friendships takes time and practice

  • Start by making yourself available and engaging with others
  • Develop genuine interest in other people’s lives

Satisfaction is fleeting but necessary for happiness

  • Achieving goals and experiencing rewards brings joy
  • Dopamine, the anticipation of reward, drives us to seek satisfaction

Balancing satisfaction with other components of happiness is crucial

  • A life without moments of satisfaction is dull and gray

Evolutionary psychology suggests we are hardwired for money, power, pleasure, fame

  • They provide fitness in the mating market
  • Mother Nature wants us to pass on our genes, not necessarily be happy

To find a balance between happiness and success, it’s important to prioritize intrinsic motivations and relationships over extrinsic motivations and achievements.

Success addiction is similar to other behavioral addictions

  • People sacrifice happiness for success
  • Driven by dopamine system

Workaholism is an ancillary addiction to success addiction

  • Payoff is promotion, raise, compliments, adulation on social media

Many great innovators, composers, and creative intellects sacrificed their happiness for their work

  • Literature shows that depressives tend to be disproportionately creative

However, misery is not inevitable

  • Can be successful and happy by detaching from ego and focusing on serving others
  • Example: Johann Sebastian Bach

Love is the “nuclear fuel rods” of happiness

  • Strong relationships are key to happiness

Hatred is downstream from fear

  • To understand lack of love, examine fears
  • To reduce fear, cultivate more love and relationships

Identifying and confronting death fears is important for happiness

  • Requires serious reflection and self-awareness

Complex problems:

  • High number of permutations, difficult to solve
  • Examples: human life, love, relationships
  • Cannot be solved with simple engineering solutions

Complicated problems:

  • Require computational horsepower to solve
  • Once solved, can be replicated with great accuracy
  • Examples: creating a jet engine, building a toaster

People may resort to material possessions or superficial achievements to cope with complex problems

  • Example: buying a boat or seeking more success to compensate for loneliness
  • This approach does not truly solve the problem and can lead to heartbreak and dissatisfaction

Four Ashramas (Stages) of Life in Vedic Philosophy

  1. Brahmacharya (0–25 years): Student life, learning and absorbing knowledge
  2. Grihasta (25–50 years): Householder phase, career, marriage, children, worldly rewards
  3. Vanaprasta (50–75 years): Retiring into the forest, focusing on teaching and others’ success
  4. Sanyasa (75+ years): Dedicated to spiritual enlightenment


Contemplate Failure for Happiness


Practices to Confront Death Fears for Happiness


Creating a Plan for Managing Factors of Happiness



We recommend using this distillation as a supplemental resource to the source material.

  • Arthur Brooks: The science of happiness

    Attia The Drive #226

    Attia delves into Arthur Brooks’ insights on happiness, covering its scientific basis, key components, and practical strategies for success and fulfillment.

    Sourced from
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