Professor of Behavioural Science at the London School of Economics and Political Science, expert on human behaviour and happiness, and author of best-selling book Happiness by Design and Happy Ever After.
Does our quest for a seemingly perfect life, a constant need to keep up with the Joneses and a series of unachievable expectations fuel our growing levels of unhappiness and anxiety? We’re looking at the social norms that surround marriage, children, careers, education, income and so much more with Paul Dolan, a professor of behavioural science at the London School of Economics, looking at the research and the science behind the narratives.
“Today’s guest is Prof. Paul Dolan. Paul is author of Happy Ever After – Escaping The Myth of The Perfect Life and Professor of Behavioural Science at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Paul draws on new research about wellbeing, inequality and life satisfaction to dispel some of the common myths about our sources of happiness. We discuss the common narratives and myths around happiness that many of us adhere to and follow, why we judge others who dare to step outside these narratives and the importance of purpose.”
Listen to the episode (subscription required) here
“We are under so much pressure to be happy. The market has exploded with self help happiness books and we see post after post on Instagram telling us to live our lives to the full. In times of adversity we’re told to ‘keep our chin up’ and ‘turn that frown upside down’. But is it truly possible to be happy all the time? Are human emotions like sadness and anger to be avoided at all costs, or are they in fact a fundamental component of human nature? And how can we be told to be happy 24/7 when in the same breath we’re also told not to be ashamed of negative emotions? Either way, with depression rates at an all time high and stress levels surging, it seems we haven’t quite got happiness figured out. Today I’m here with Paul Dolan, Professor of Behavioural Science and expert on human behaviour and happiness, to understand what truly makes us happy.”
“Last month, I gave a talk about my new book, Happy Ever After, at the Hay Festival. My comments about marriage and kids got a lot of attention in the media. One of things I said was “If you’re a man, you should probably get married. If you’re a woman, don’t bother. If you’re a man, you basically calm down… you take less risks, you earn more money at work, you live a little longer. She on the other hand has to put up with that – and she dies sooner than if she had never married. The healthiest and happiest population subgroup are women that have never married and never had children [audience laughs]…. We love it when evidence confirms what we always knew. That’s called confirmation bias by the way. But that’s interesting because the narrative is something quite different.””
“‘Don’t pity the single ladies, author says – they’re probably happier than you.’
A new book suggests that while society expects them to be sad and lonely, single women who don’t have children are actually a very happy population. Not everyone agrees with the idea, however. We chat with the author, as well as people on either side of the debate.”
“Good news for women feeling pressure to rush toward the altar and/or motherhood: You might be happier (and live longer!) just the way you are.
As reported by The Guardian, professor of behavioral science Paul Dolan said on Saturday that while “married people are happier than other population subgroups,” that only applies to “when their spouse is in the room when they’re asked how happy they are.””
“Tchuh, women. Never bloody happy, are they? Except, it turns out, they are, just not in the way they were told to be, and thought they should be. According to a new book by Paul Dolan, a professor of behavioural science at the London School of Economics…”
“Women who are not married and do not have children are the happiest group in the population, a prominent expert in happiness has said.
Paul Dolan, a professor of behavioural science at the London School of Economics, said unmarried and childless women are also likely to outlive their married child-rearing counterparts and are healthier than them.”
“We may have suspected it already, but now the science backs it up: unmarried and childless women are the happiest subgroup in the population. And they are more likely to live longer than their married and child-rearing peers, according to a leading expert in happiness.”
“Want to live happily ever after? Then don’t have children, go to university or live near a Lottery winner.
Prof Paul Dolan, a ‘happiness expert’ from the London School of Economics, says our desire to keep up with the Joneses and have a family because that is expected of us can be detrimental to our wellbeing.”
“One of the most common ways we make sense of our lives is through stories. From the earliest cave paintings depicting spirits or symbols, to the fairy tales that offer moral messages to children, stories are a universal reference point helping to guide most people’s choices about how they live.
Professor Paul Dolan new book, The Happiness Myth, follows his bestselling Happiness by Design by looking at how the evidence challenges the narratives at the heart of our idea of wellbeing.”
“What really makes us happy? Is it a big house, lots of money, marriage and children? Not necessarily. Yet so many of us base what we do upon the ‘stories’ we tell ourselves of what we think should make us happy without paying attention to whether these things actually do make us happy day-to-day. Professor of behavioural science and guest on this week’s podcast, Professor Paul Dolan, believes that happiness is subjective in every way and if we free ourselves from the myth of the perfect life we might each find a life that is worth living.”
“On the face of it, it’s rather odd that there is an International Day of Happiness. Don’t we live every day trying to be happy?
Well, not really. As a professor of behavioural science at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), I spend a lot of my working life trying to work out what makes people happy. Often, that means looking beyond what they say makes them happy, and towards the evidence base provided by research, which paints a different picture.”
Whether it’s getting married, having kids or a high-paying job, society loves to tell us how to live our lives. Paul Dolan, professor of Behavioural Science at the LSE, explains why these preconceived narratives can be damaging to us as individuals, and how to find your own route to happiness, in his new book, Happy Ever After.
Did you miss the LSE book launch of Happy Ever After? Or perhaps you have a burning question that wasn’t answered? Professor Paul Dolan is going to continue the conversation and is holding a more intimate discussion and book signing session where there will be refreshments provided.
After a very short introduction from Paul, the event will be an extended Q&A where you will have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about escaping the myth of the perfect life.
If you do not already have a copy of the book they will be available for you to purchase at the session, where Paul will sign your book on the day.
“How much money do we need to make us happy? It is a much-debated question, but an answer I heard at a recent event in west London surprised me. To be truly content, it was said, people don’t need to be rich, they need “just enough”.”
The Calmer You Podcast: In ‘Happy Ever After: Escaping the Myth of the Perfect Life’ bestselling happiness expert Professor Paul Dolan draws on a variety of studies covering issues such as wellbeing, inequality and discrimination to bust the common myths about our sources of happiness. He shows that there can be many unexpected paths to lasting fulfilment. Some of these might involve not going into higher education, choosing not to marry, rewarding acts rooted in self-interest and caring a little less about living for ever.
By freeing ourselves from the myth of the perfect life, we might each find a life worth living.
“One of the most rigorous articulations of the new mood of acceptance is Happy Ever After: Escapingthe Myth of the Perfect Life by Paul Dolan, a professor of behavioural science at the LSE and, the publicity material explains, “an internationally renowned expert in human behaviour and happiness”. His book is a persuasive demolition of many of our cultural stories about how we ought to live, including the idea that there’s anything particularly desirable about being a senior academic or a renowned expert.”
In Happy Ever After, Paul Dolan dispels some of the most common myths about what makes us happy. Here are five things you should stop doing in order to escape the myth of perfection, and truly find lasting fulfilment.