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Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert discusses the science of happiness:


Q. What makes us happy?

A. Some of the things Grandma told you were exactly right. Find a nice boy, settle down: good advice. It turns out marriage is a cause of happiness. Grandma might have told you to find a good job and make some money. That advice is not terrible advice. More money makes you happy, but it doesn’t do a whole lot for you, and once you’re in the middle class, more money does very little. The last piece of advice grandmothers give is children. There are virtually no studies demonstrating a positive correlation between children and happiness, and most studies show a small negative correlation. By and large, people with children are less happy.

Q. Why can’t we predict what will make us happy?

A. One of the mistakes people make is when they think about the future, the future they make in their mind looks a little too much like the present. We also fail to realize how good we are at adapting to circumstances.

Q. What are you studying now?

A. One of the things we’ve been studying the last year or two is mind-wandering – how happy people are when their minds wander away from the task they’re doing in the middle of the day. First of all, we found about half the time people’s minds are wandering. We also found we are happiest when we are thinking about what we are doing – almost regardless of what we are doing. Our studies suggest that having your mind wander is never good, never makes you more happy than you already are.

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