Happiness project

What makes you happy?

What does the word ‘happiness’ mean anyway?

I’m working on an ongoing research project about the nature of happiness and what it means to us today. Yep, you’re right, that’s quite a big subject, but I’m really looking forward to tackling it.

The culmination of the project is a book proposal to be sent as a title prospect to publishers of non-fiction books.

It’s not a self-help book. It’s not a philosophy book. It’s more an exploration of the subject of happiness that you can perhaps pick up when you want to. The ideal book for keeping by the loo. There are two parts to the book.

Part One is a romp through the history of thought, looking at what the great and the good (and the not so good) have had to say on the subject of happiness. From the ancient Greeks, through medieval philosophers, the great minds of the Englightenment, right through to 20th-century thinkers, writers, athropologists, politicans, religious leaders, etc.

Part Two is a compilation of modern responses to the subject, which I have solicited from a variety of voices today. I intend to interview leading figures in modern society, along with spiritual leaders, remarkable people, homeless people, prisoners, musicians, artists, philosophers – anyone with anything interesting to say about happiness and what it means to them.

The point of the book isn’t to try and come to a conclusion about what happiness really is. Thinkers and writers down the years have tried to do that repeatedly and very few of them agree. On the question ‘what is happiness?’ the jury is pretty much out.

What I intend to provide is a wide-reaching investigation into what happiness might mean to lots of different kinds of people – in the past and today. I then lay the challenge down to the reader to come up with what they think happiness means to them.

This isn’t the kind of book you might sit down and read in one go. You’ll probably dip in and out of it as you go. Perhaps just flick through it as and when you like.

As my body of research grows, I intend to build up a representative sample of the book content in progress on this website. Here are some examples of the kind of content you’ll be able to find in the book:

The historical section of the book, featuring profiles of the great and the good of the past.

The contemporary section of the book, featuring interviews with people today.

I’m also blogging about what I find out about happiness here.

  1. […] About Steve|Latest writing|Happiness project|Museums| […]

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  6. Hey Steve —
    I love your idea! In fact, my book, called THE HAPPINESS PROJECT, comes out on December 29, 2009 (Harper). Check out my blog, also called The Happiness Project,

    I guess HAPPY minds think alike! warmly, Gretchen Rubin

    • Hi Gretchen,
      Thanks for taking the time to post on my blog. I read yours regularly and really enjoy the practical tips you suggest for what might help us all have a happy life.

      Yes, one of the conclusions I’ve been coming to over the last few years is that happy minds do think alike. It’s quite contagious. I call it ‘happiness breeds happiness’.

      Good luck for the book launch this week. I hope it goes well and wish you every success with your blog, book and anything else you turn your hand to.

      Best wishes.
      Yours, Steve

  7. […] About Steve|Latest writing|Happiness project|Museums| […]

  8. […] About Steve|Latest writing|Happiness project|Museums| […]

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  10. Hey Steve, sorry for e-stalking you, but saw the link at the bottom of your email. This subject is an obsession of mine also. Have you read the Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt? One of my favourites from the last few years.

    Daniel Kahneman has done lots of interesting work exploring economic indicators of happiness (as opposed to the traditional obession with GDP as a measure of a nation’s ‘wellbeing’), which I can’t find now, although his related talk from TED is here:

  11. […] About Steve|Latest writing|Happiness project|Museums| […]

  12. Can’t wait to read the book – sounds great!

  13. […] he describes his Happiness Project and here he writes nice things about me.  I’m delighted to get involved with this project […]

  14. […] LLO: Tell us a bit about The Happiness Project you’re working on at the moment. SS: Happiness is an enormous subject. It’s vast. The more I learn about it, the more questions I have. Down the ages, the great and the good have tried to get to grips with happiness. What is it? How we define it? Thinkers and writers have produced millions of pages on this subject – so much so that I wonder if it’s worth even trying to answer such a huge question that seeks to define happiness in broad terms. Instead, I’m interested in what makes us happy as individuals. So, I started looking at some historical characters and tried to find out what they said about happiness – Aristotle, Henry VIII, Churchill. I found that an understanding of happiness is contextual – to truly appreciate what makes someone happy, one has to understand the world they live in. So one aspect of this project is looking back at some figures from history who’ve had something interesting to say about happiness. These are juxtaposed with the modern section, which involves me going and interviewing lots of people from different walks of life today, asking them what happiness means to them and what makes them happy. The idea is to build up a picture of what happiness might mean to us in a modern context []. […]

  15. […] with other bloggers and readers like Stephanie Sadler from the Little London Observationist, Steve Slack, Alex Moore from Rosa’s and Hayley Cull from Slow London. And I have made real-life […]

  16. […] About Steve|Latest writing|Happiness project|Museums| […]

  17. Have you looked at neuroaesthetics? I came across it over summer and as a dreamer I don’t really enjoy the concept but its very interesting…

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