Weekend Reading: Does Arthur Brooks Have the Secret to Happiness?

This article appears as part of Casey Weade's Weekend Reading for Retirees series. Every Friday, Casey highlights four hand-picked articles on trending retirement topics and delivers them straight to your email inbox. Get on the list here.
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Weekend Reading

If you’ve been following my Weekend Reading series for some time, you may recognize the name Arthur Brooks. He writes about the concept of happiness (one of my favorite topics), which is why I often share his articles to help others learn to maximize theirs.


A happy decline: With mounting happiness research under his belt, Brooks is known as the “happiness guru”. Why? Because America needs it. According to a poll conducted in 2021, it was the first year since 1972 that more Americans felt “not too happy” versus “very happy”. Brooks contributes this to the looming fear that continues to hover over society amongst the uncertainty around us, which is why he is on a happiness movement mission.

The four pillars: If it’s difficult for you to feel naturally happy, he recommends focusing on the four pillars of your “happiness portfolio”: Faith, family, friends and work. Beyond these pillars, Brooks says happiness is also made up of three macronutrients: Enjoyment, satisfaction and purpose. While 50 percent of your happiness stems from genetics, your circumstances are another 25 percent, while the remaining comes from your habits.

Happy horizons: Overall, Brooks believes the “secret to happiness is metacognition, or the ability to observe your own desires, cravings, emotions, and feelings, without automatically reacting to them.” It comes down to understanding that you’re continually moving toward your “happier horizon”. You never fully reach the destination, but you work toward creating a happier you as time passes.

Don’t forget fulfillment: You might spend time planning for your financial future, making a better business decision or finding the perfect pair of shoes, but what about planning for your happiness?