The Rough Guide to Happiness

by Nick Baylis and Rough Guides

Author Nick Baylis and Rough Guides Isbn 9781848360150 File size 5 8MB Year 2009 Pages 336 Language English File format PDF Category Family and Friendship Don t worry be happy find out how What is happiness And how can we achieve it The Rough Guide to Happiness is the ultimate how to be happy handbook Discover how to effectively improve your work life balance increase self esteem and nourish your mind and body while nurturing relationships with the ones you love The Rough Guide to

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Author : Nick Baylis and Rough Guides

ISBN : 9781848360150

Year : 2009

Language: English

File Size : 5.8MB

Category : Family and Friendship

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I S B N 978-1-84836-015-0



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The Rough Guide to Happiness

Rough Guides Reference

Commissioning editor: Ruth Tidball
Picture research: Ruth Tidball and Nick Baylis
Typesetting and indexing: Ruth Tidball
Proofreading: Jason Freeman
Production: Rebecca Short

Editors: Kate Berens, Peter Buckley,
Tracy Hopkins, Matthew Milton,
Joe Staines, Ruth Tidball
Director: Andrew Lockett

Front cover image: Jens Lucking/Getty Images
Author photo: Dr Alejandra Gardiol
Inside front cover image: Roy McMahon/Corbis

Publishing information
Published April 2009 by
Rough Guides Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL
375 Hudson St, New York 10014, USA
Email: [email protected]
Distributed by the Penguin Group:
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL
Penguin Group (USA), 375 Hudson Street, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, M4P 2Y3
Penguin Group (New Zealand), Cnr Rosedale and Airborne Roads, Albany, Auckland, New Zealand
Printed and bound in China
Typeset in American Typewriter, Optima and Myriad to an original design by Ruth Tidball
The publishers and author have done their best to ensure the accuracy and currency of
all information in The Rough Guide to Happiness; however, they can accept no
responsibility for any loss or inconvenience sustained by any reader as a result of its
information or advice.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission from the
publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.
© 2009 Dr Nick Baylis
336 pages; includes index
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN 13: 978-1-84836-015-0
1 3 5 7 9 8 6 4 2

Author’s acknowledgements


About the author




1 Foundations for a beautiful life


2 Our subconscious


3 Our conscious strategies


4 Our bodies


5 Our loves and passions


6 Our social nature


7 Playing wisely, working well


8 Our environment


9 Saving our soul from technology


10 Exploring the possibilities


Appendix: Working well with a therapist


Where now?








Author’s acknowledgements
I gratefully acknowledge…
 my much-loved friends and family, who mean all the world to me.
 the literary agent Robert Kirby (founder of,
who rode shotgun on the author’s contract through some pretty
rough country.
 Rough Guides’ Development Editor, Ruth Tidball – thank you,
Ruth, for making the journey such a welcome education. Through
your good nature and expertise, working on this was a privilege for
me, from our first thoughts to our final draft.

ebooks ==>

About the author
In the early 1990s, Nick graduated from the MA in creative
writing at the University of East
Anglia, and then The National
Film and Television School.
All the while he’d been moonlighting on an Open University
diploma in criminology, and so
became a creative writing tutor
cum counsellor in Feltham highsecurity young offenders prison, founding in 1998 the Trailblazers mentorship programme
for inmates, which still goes
from strength to strength (see
Earning his PhD in developmental psychology from Cambridge
University in 1999, Nick created and spent a year
interviewing some of the most accomplished individuals of their generation in many walks of life, from students of dance, art and music through
to Nick Hornby, Gary Lineker, Kate Adie and the Commander of the
Special Air Service Sir Peter de la Billière. The fundamental question
was this: “How do you achieve your goals in life, and how do you enjoy
the journey?”. Nick’s first book, Learning from Wonderful Lives, reflects
this research.
Nick went on to be Britain’s first lecturer in Positive Psychology and
the Science of Well-being, launching his course at Cambridge University
in 2001 and co-organizing The Royal Society’s three-day international
conference on the Science of Well-being in 2003. Since these beginnings, his explorations have endeavoured to be far broader, embracing
the arts and philosophies, therapies and physical activities that when
woven together can help a life to thrive and flourish. In pursuit of this
vocation, Nick has a home in Cambridge but enjoys accepting invitations to spend much of the year teaching and learning overseas. (Visit


For adventure-lovers and creative outlaws
wherever in the world you find one another.
Wishing you bon voyage!
Nick Baylis



n cultures where elephants are conscripted into the human working world, it is common practice each night to tether the baby
elephant to a wooden post from which the chubby little fella can’t
escape. It seems that even though the elephant grows much wiser and
stronger in so many ways, they never again challenge the authority of
that post. They’ve long since presumed it can’t be done. But if only they
knew what they were capable of, and explored the possibilities.
Rather like those elephants, it’s all too easy for us to get stuck with
one view of the world and be slow to challenge the accepted ways of
doing things. Yet our lives, and the lives of those we care for, are just too
valuable to be left to the scientists and so-called experts, the gurus and
government officials. Their proclamations and decrees just don’t cut it.
Reason being that no two lives are the same, nor any situation, which
means we can’t rely on the off-the-shelf solutions that people try to sell
us claiming “one size fits all!” And it’s exactly because there are no silver


bullets, no cure-alls, nothing that always works, that we each of us have
to find out for ourselves what fits best and when.

What does this Rough Guide mean by “happiness”?
In 1948, the founders of the World Health Organization defined the
word “health” as meaning “physical, mental and social well-being, not
merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.
In the same spirit, this Rough Guide is about “happiness” in the very
broadest sense of the word. These pages set out to investigate what principles and strategies, what skills and experiences, seem to foster a life
that is profoundly healthy, highly adventurous, good-hearted and rich
in creative partnerships. In other words, a life that is going well on all
its major fronts – physical, psychological and social – not only for the
individual but for the communities in which we live and work, and for
the wider natural world.
Such a “wholesome” happiness requires that we thrive in the face
of adversity (i.e. the setbacks and sadness, the loneliness and regret,
the anger and shame) just as readily as we thrive in the sunshine of
friendship, joy and success. By contrast, if this book only focused on
happiness in the sense of pleasurable feelings, it would be quite useless
to us – as useless as consuming vitamin C tablets as our only source of
good nutrition. Why? Because vitamin C will only work properly when
it’s interacting with all the other vitamins, minerals, fats and fibres to be
found in a well-rounded, well-balanced meal. The same goes for life – it
likes to be lived in a full and natural form.

Why on earth do we need a guide?
“Things are better today than at any other time in human history”: this
is what many of the big-name psychologists, economists and politicians
are all too keen to tell us.
Oh really? It’s by no means clear that we humans have been able to
shape all that Internet information into “greater wisdom”, because we’re
still, self-evidently, not very good at living. Are we really convinced that
school teaching in crowded classrooms is better than the one-to-one
apprenticeships it replaced? Or that artificial air-conditioning is better
than the warmth of a fireside or the cool waters of a river? Or that watching television is better than experiencing the world first-hand?
Possibly not.


Well-being is on our to-do list, but never gets prioritized. The good
health of our body, mind and personal relationships too often gets left
until the end of the working day. It’s the last thing we get around to…
and only if there’s time. Oh, we all talk earnestly about well-being (we
individuals, schools, universities, businesses, parents and politicians), but
when push comes to shove, we tend to prioritize A-grades and income
brackets along with our favourite TV shows and pizza toppings.
Part of the problem may be that well-being is so very close to home
that it’s just too hot to handle. Other than ourselves, do we know anyone
who is not troubled deeply by certain aspects of everyday life? Our eyes
tear up, our temper rises, or our stomach sinks with despair, all because
of some trigger that seems to derail us. Either that or it feels as if we’re
driving around with the handbrake on: revving like mad but making
damned little progress. What’s wrong with us?
Whereas we might readily confide to a stranger that we have cancer
or a heart problem, by contrast we sometimes can’t tell even our closest
friends that we’re depressed or having panic attacks or relationship troubles. We are all too aware that these “secret problems” cost us dearly,
but what’s to be done about them?
This Rough Guide hopes, where it can, to come face-to-face with all
that unspoken but extremely important stuff. It’s written on the principle that life is a skill, just like swimming; and like swimming, it can go
from being about sheer survival to feeling wonderful, all depending on
how good we become at it. Good fortune plays a role, but even fortune
favours the well-prepared.

Putting our lives back together
Too often at school and university, different subjects are taught in
isolation from each other, and our world and its history can remain
fragmented in our minds for the rest of our lives. In open defiance of
this accidental tradition, this Rough Guide is an attempt to step back
a couple of paces to see how things fit together. It’s a sort of aerial
photograph for reconnaissance purposes. After all, life is multi-dimensional and interwoven, and so is this handbook. Not just in its focus
as explained above (i.e. happiness viewed in the broadest sense), but
in the kaleidoscope of lenses it endeavours to look through. As well
as collecting some of the most compelling science, philosophies,
faiths and therapies that have something to say about living well, this



Rough Guide tries to give a good deal of space to the creative and performing arts. How have novels and films, poetry and paintings, songs
and sculpture, dance and drama explored and expressed what it is to
be alive? Western approaches are certainly not seen as the only way,
and we’ll read about Chinese and Indian approaches to everything from
energy therapies to sexual practices. Life is full-colour, so why not our
exploration of it?

Not narrowing down, but opening up
The bookshop shelves devoted to happiness and well-being are groaningly heavy with one-horse wonders that advocate their single silver bullet to solve the problems of modern life, their patented panacea that will
put us all right. Happiness itself is often sold as the latest in a long line of
cure-alls for stress, depression and our highly demanding lifestyles.
Taking a stand against all of that, this handbook is neither trying to get
its arms around everything, nor to distil the essence; rather it endeavours
to illustrate the richness of life. Unless you’re a pompous professor with
a book to sell, or a blabbering drunk (the two personalities are often
indistinguishable), you’ll appreciate that there are no right answers, just
intriguing possibilities, many of which you’ll devise for yourself en route
as counter-arguments to what you read here.
If that’s what happens, then it’s all to the good.
This isn’t an encyclopaedia of happiness you’re holding, nor a satellite
navigation device barking out orders. It’s a chance to compare notes.
These ideas aspire to start discussions rather than finish them. To be a
fuel for debate rather than a defence against dissent. To prompt controversy rather than police it. They offer an antidote to all those bestselling
books peddling their happiness hype and humbug, which give only one
point of view of what works. As Voltaire said, “I honour the man who
seeks truth, but despise the man who claims to have found it”. In respect
of this, these pages challenge the accepted wisdoms with some of the
most compelling evidence that flies in the face of proclamations by the
latest TV professors and government officials. More than occasionally
you will hear an irreverent voice calling out “The Emperor’s wearing
no clothes!”, because when it comes to life guidance, there have been
some big lies and bad science. This book blows the whistle on all of that
baloney. You might even say it’s an elephant in sheep’s clothing, because
it’s pulling at that post in the ground, to find out what’s possible.


Vive la différence!
For every world-class specialist who points us in one direction, there’s
another equally convincing authority pointing us in quite another.
Which is why the quotes and pictures you’ll find in these pages are
not there to win you over with the weight of their reputation – they are
merely intended to illustrate the rich and various range of opinion and
evidence on all of these topics. If ever a turn of phrase appears to be
offering a definitive conclusion on a subject, then please forgive it as
an accident of style or over-enthusiasm. Nothing in this handbook is
claiming “here’s how things really are”; it’s simply proffered as a starting
place, a catalyst for adventure, kindling for a fire that might light the way
and drive the steam engine.
In short: this is not a know-it-all self-help book. Quite the opposite. It
simply dares to suggest that no one really knows, so we’d better explore
for ourselves! And we shouldn’t be too embarrassed about feeling a
bit flummoxed by things. Let’s remember that our Planet Earth circles
a sun that’s part of a galaxy of billions of other stars burning brightly.
What’s more, there are billions of such galaxies in our universe, and
this universe is being stretched outwards by something physicists rather
dramatically call “dark energy” that they confess they simply don’t
understand… save to say that it may have something to do with the
equally mysterious “dark matter” that’s holding you, me and the whole
caboodle together.
The point is that life, by its very nature, is awe-inspiring stuff and
seemingly impossible.
This idea that there are no golden rules to rely on feels a tad frightening at first. Then we realize it’s actually very liberating. In learning to
fish for ourselves, we can experiment, play and partner up. In respect of
which, these pages aren’t a set of rules, they’re simply some raw ingredients. It’s entirely up to us what to make of them, and with whom to
share the experience.

We’re in with a good chance
It’s good to hear that Professor George Vaillant, long-time director of
the Harvard Study of Adult Development (see pp.194–195), suggests
that our skills for coping, for enjoying and for doing good each have
the capacity to improve greatly. As the professor puts it, even those
of us from “spectacularly dysfunctional families” can go on to create




fabulous lives. Painful memories and personal scars can lessen and mend
if we persevere with self-healing choices. The past may seem to stack the
odds, but it can never dictate the next steps we take, or that providence
provides. Life is far less predictable than we dare to believe.
If that all sounds rather too hopeful, let’s bear in mind how we each
of us have learned some pretty daunting tricks in the past: to run, to
swim, to talk, to kiss (okay, maybe some of these still need a little finetuning…), and as with riding a bike, we never forget how to make such
impressive leaps forward. Why not with life?
This, dear reader, is your Rough Guide to Happiness: a travelling companion for elephants everywhere, gently exploring what’s possible.
Nick Baylis
Cambridge, August 2008


for a
beautiful life


for a
beautiful life


ere is the first of ten inter-related chapters that endeavour to
honour in spirit the richly woven nature of life. From the arts
and sciences, philosophies and faiths, education and therapies, they gather together some of the most compelling approaches and
insights, both ancient and modern.
This opening chapter introduces three central propositions, three
“themes” if you will, which will be developed throughout this Rough
 Theme 1: that prioritizing pleasure isn’t a helpful goal in life.
Ridden well, all of our emotions – painful as well as pleasurable
– have the capacity to carry us forward.
 Theme 2: that a wholesome life, characterized by well-rounded,
well-balanced well-being, is the most promising route to a profound
sense of rapport with ourselves and the world around us.
 Theme 3: that, in pursuit of a wholesome life, we each of us could
boldly explore for ourselves what works best and when. Such a
dynamic and versatile strategy is highly recommended, not only
because the one-size-fits-all, off-the-shelf solutions are so ineffective,
but because the gurus, governments, experts and authorities who sell
them are just too unreliable.



Theme 1: A life in progress
“I just want to be happy!” is the Western world’s dominant mantra,
and we tend to think ourselves rather enlightened and guru-like for
putting this feeling firmly at the centre of life’s bigger picture. Happy is
the new rich, the new beautiful. Governments have picked up on this
new trend, and are now officially “measuring our happiness” (more
on this in Chapter 8), presumably so they can calculate how much
they can tax us before we go hopping mad with misery and overthrow
the state. Yet, for many of us, happiness seems elusive. We’re either
less happy than we feel we ought to be, or we feel it’s always slipping
through our fingers just as we think we’re getting somewhere.
The problem is we’ve set ourselves on a wild goose chase. Across
the centuries, philosophers, scientists and thinkers of all stripes have
attempted to pin down what exactly we mean by “happiness”, and
they’ve tended to fall in behind a single slogan: lots of pleasure, and
an absence of pain. The eighteenth-century thinker Jeremy Bentham
was one of the first to attempt to systematically measure our happiness. His theory was simple: to find how much happiness is generated
by an action, we should add up all the pleasure and subtract the pain.
A century or so later, Freud summed up what was still the generally
accepted definition of happiness: “an absence of pain and … strong
feelings of pleasure”. And this is pretty much the guiding principle
we’ve stuck to ever since. We think of our pleasurable emotions (such
as joy, satisfaction, pride or confidence) as being “positive” or good,
and our painful ones (such as anger, fear, envy or shame) as being
“negative” or bad. In short, we’ve deified pleasure, “feeling good”,
and demonized pain.
But this view of happiness is profoundly unhelpful to us. In fact, seeking to maximize pleasurable feelings and avoid pain is a life-strategy that
has seriously damaging consequences, because it flies in the face of a
far more fundamental drive of human nature: the drive for progress, for
genuine improvement in our relationship with life.


Progress… in our relationship with life
Evolution has endowed us with a powerful motivation to make progress
in our lives – to keep on getting better at living. After all, that’s what will
give us the best chance not only of surviving, but of thriving.
What do we mean by progress? It seems best summed up as ever
healthier and more harmonious relationships. Such healthy partnerships
are our best means of surviving and flourishing, because when we partner up we achieve far more together than we ever could alone.
For these reasons, nature has hard-wired us with a strong drive to
seek out and foster such health-bringing relationships. And these vital
relationships are not only with the folk around us. They can also be
with the natural world of flora and fauna (see Chapter 8). And they can
be between different aspects of ourselves: a healthy bond between our
mind and body (see Chapter 4) and between our conscious and subconscious mind (see Chapter 2) makes us resilient and ready to rise to life’s
Taken together, all these relationships add up to our “relationship with
life”. In short, then, progress in our life is all about an ever-deepening
rapport with ourselves and the world around us. Rapport is a skill and a
state of being that is considerate, responsive, respectful of, sensitive to,
and delighting in the relationship.

Fakes promising closeness
It’s because progress in our relationships is our hard-wired priority in life that
the likes of booze, sex, TV and fame can be so misleading. These fakes give the
impression of our relationships developing, without that really being the case.
For instance:
 Getting drunk together can seem like a short cut to companionship, but
once we’re sober again, we find nothing has changed.
 Likewise, we might hope sex will bring emotional closeness, whereas
healthy sex is the culmination of emotional closeness, not the cause of it.
 TV shows try to make us feel a part of something, but this relationship is an
 And note how fame is so often sought as a substitute for love, and always
fails to be so.



Beauty signals healthy partnerships
So great is the evolutionary advantage conferred by healthy partnerships that
nature has found a helpful means of attracting our attention. It’s called beauty.
No matter it be the beauty of a personality or a face, a landscape or a building, a verse of poetry or a mathematical formula, the common denominator is
that all such beauties comprise separate ingredients that have come together
in a special partnership to create an overall effect far more powerful than the
sum of the individual elements. Beauty signals healthy partnerships. We need
only think of how an entrancing and inspiring voice, dance, melody or meal
achieves its effect by the complementary bringing together and rightful balance of its component parts. The more daringly and unexpectedly the healthy
balance is achieved, the more beautiful we deem it.
We can think of beauty as a form of energy that radiates from a fine example
of just about anything. This highly attractive energy is in effect a form of information for our senses; it is nature’s barcode telling us how healthy something
is, because health-bringing things increase the likelihood that we and our
genes will survive and thrive.
Harvard psychologist Professor Nancy Etcoff observes that with this vital
equation very much in mind (something beautiful = something healthy), our
brain behaves like a highly sensitive radar constantly hunting for the beauty
signal. This explains why, if we’re shown a photograph of a face, it takes us less
than a fifth of a second to make an accurate judgement of its attractiveness.
Much of the language of this “beautiful energy” is hard-wired and universal,
which explains why three-month-old babies, who are a long way from being
influenced by glossy magazines and media images, will far prefer gazing at
conventionally attractive faces. Likewise, adults from diverse ethnic groups
and cultures can all strongly agree on how good-looking someone is, no matter that someone be from another race or ethnic group. The active ingredients
creating beauty seem to include symmetry, proportion and a sense of balance.
In other words, beauty signals the healthy relationship between the parts that
make up the whole.

In the psychologically healthy individual, this in-born calling to
make progress in our life is overwhelmingly strong. From wherever
we are now in life, no matter how beautiful, rich, clever or accomplished, we still want to feel ourselves moving forward in some way.
When we come to the end of one journey, we very quickly hunger
for another. As the Enlightenment philosopher John Locke put it, “No
sooner is one action dispatch’d … but another uneasiness is ready to
set us on work”. We’re pre-programmed by our evolutionary heritage
to get back on the trail. This drive to make progress in our relationships is so important to us that we put ourselves through hell for it. In
our hearts, we seem to know full well that pleasure isn’t our ultimate

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