The recipe for happiness according to Dan Gilbert

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The recipe for happiness according to Dan Gilbert

The recipe for happiness is hard to find. However, Dan Gilbert's point of view is worth knowing. This social psychologist proposes to simplify our goals and to identify in the will the backbone of our actions.

Last update: June 07, 2020

Dan Gilbert is a social psychologist, writer and professor of psychology at Harvard University. He became famous with his book Happy you become, translated into more than thirty languages. His fame is also due to the numerous conferences he attended claiming to have found what everyone is looking for: the recipe for happiness.



At first glance, Gilbert's approach might seem superficial and frivolous. The recipe for happiness seems to be associated more with self-help than with a deep approach. Despite this first impression, Gilbert is a trained and rigorous psychologist. He is convinced of the existence of a recipe for happiness, but he also warns us that in this search there are no shortcuts.

He also points out that the main problem is that many people aren't sure what makes them happy. Also remember that you can't, and shouldn't, be happy all the time. If so, we wouldn't know when we are happy and when we are not. Always pointing in one direction is counterproductive: you have to be sensitive to changes.

"The eye and the brain are conspirators and, as with most conspiracies, they plot behind closed doors in the back room, out of our awareness."

-Dan Gilbert-

The science of happiness

Dan Gilbert argues that being happy is an easier goal than most people think. Happiness is not hidden somewhere nor is it a treasure that is found by chance. Nor is it the result of achieving certain goals or a gift given to us by good luck.



Gilbert identifies (and distinguishes) a synthetic happiness and a natural happiness. Synthetic happiness is that which is obtained by achieving something that we have proposed. Work, a wedding, a trip, a Like on social networks, etc. According to him, this type of happiness is transitory and strongly conditioned by a specific result.

On the other hand, there is natural happiness. This is not a feeling, but a condition that arises from a predefined setting. It is present both when we reach a goal and if we don't reach it. It comes from within and what happens on the outside does not essentially change it. Yes, there is a recipe for happiness and it is very simple.

The recipe for happiness

The recipe for happiness has only two ingredients that are available to anyone who wants to use them. The first is to not overstate the suffering. Many people "feed" bad memories or negative experiences by constantly thinking about what they have been through. Furthermore, they look to the future by overstating the suffering they may experience.

This ingredient must be associated with the second: confidence in one's own resilience. We must be convinced that we are able to overcome any situation that causes us pain. Lack of confidence in our ability to manage pain is one of the factors that fuel suffering.

We often put aside many projects because of the fear of being able to suffer. In this way, we do nothing but limit our possibilities. The worst part is that many times the suffering we think we feel has no concrete foundation. In reality, the fear we have is not of being able to experience suffering, but of not being able to manage it.


The recipe for happiness: the way to go

The recipe for happiness is completed through daily actions that help us have more confidence in our resilience. There are five simple activities that can be done by anyone. Dan Gilbert argues that learning to be happy is like starting a diet: each of us has to do his part. The daily actions to be carried out are:



  • Wanting to be happy. Being happy is a decision you make every day.
  • Take care of ourselves. Eat healthy, get half an hour of physical activity a day and sleep at least seven hours a night. These are the basic conditions for being happy.
  • Establish and maintain healthy relationships. Get away from those who make you feel bad and hang out with the people you love.
  • Do enjoyable activities. Make a list of the activities you enjoy doing and don't relegate them to the last priority after your obligations.
  • To be grateful. Be grateful to yourself, life, whoever brings you something, teaches you something or, in some way, allows you to grow. Also, help others, this will increase your happiness.

Natural happiness is a condition that is built step by step, day after day. The good news is that, given our characteristics, we can all achieve it. Conviction and motivation will be the energies that will guide us and skills such as emotional intelligence will facilitate the transition path. In a sense, the recipe for happiness lies in the willingness to enjoy life.


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