Happy Thursday, everyone! We’re almost to the weekend, and thank God for that. I’m just about ready to throw in the towel at this time, but that’s a discussion for another day. Right now I want to bring you another review, this time for an interesting combination of science and self-help. Oddly, though, my reasons for wanting the week to be over tie into the subject of this post. The book I’m reviewing today is Joy.ology: The Chemistry of Happiness by Turker Bas, PhD.
Have you ever wondered what the key to happiness is? Ever felt like everyone else has figured out the secret and you’ve just been left to wallow in your day-to-day survival of the modern capitalist world? If so, you’re not alone. Even celebrities and the rich aren’t truly happy; they’re just taking hits off of happiness shortcuts which only satisfy them in the short term. Very few people alive today seem to have obtained genuine, long-term happiness. How, then, can we achieve true happiness?
These are the kinds of questions which Bas attempts to answer in Joy.ology. Like the rest of us, Bas began his journey to writing this book based solely on his desire to learn what happiness is and why we have yet to find it. He does not search for his answers in the expected fields of philosophy, religion, or psychology. Instead, Bas turns to neurobiology and the chemicals behind happiness. In around 214 pages, he explains how our brains experience happiness, how this process began, and how the original programming of our brains–which he dubs our “primitive brain”–fails us in modern society. Most importantly, Bas presents alternatives to constantly relying on artificially-triggered releases of chemicals like dopamine and serotonin, alternatives which may contain the elusive secret to true happiness.
I enjoyed this book even more than I thought I would. Initially, with these kinds of books, I expect either a dull read stuffed with scientific jargon or a self-help work which boosts the reader’s ego but contains little more than fluff. Bas manages a balance between his scientific basis for his argument and conversational, anecdotal examples to support and illustrate this basis. The cartoons scattered throughout the book also provide welcomed breaks. These cartoons do not necessarily provide a visual representation of data–those are represented by helpful charts and graphs–but accompany the examples in a similar way to self-help books or even political cartoons.
Some parts of the book, particularly those explaining the origin and purpose of different happiness chemicals, require more attention to understand than others. I had to re-read some of sections, such as those explaining how dopamine and serotonin work, in order to ensure I fully understood the concepts. (Of course, that may have just been my own paranoia regarding misunderstanding what I read.) Still, I found Bas’s casual yet informative tone to be much more engaging than a typical science book while proving more credible than most self-help or self-improvement books. The work’s credibility is also strengthened by the fact that Bas meticulously sites all his claims—although it does not by any means overwhelm the core text—and all his notes and citations can be found at the end of the book.
I think the best testament to this work’s quality is the fact that it has helped me understand better why I have such severe anxiety and keep dipping back into my depression despite all my anti-anxiety pills and antidepressants. It will, admittedly, take some time and conscious effort on my part in order to enact Bas’s advice on creating true happiness. He constantly tells readers that it won’t be an easy change but is necessary in order to reprogram our brains for happiness in modern society. Regardless, I now better comprehend some of the biological reasons behind such issues as my social anxiety and fear of failure, and that comprehension alone brings me one step closer to being able to fix these problems.
One piece of advice that I really took to is the suggestion for light exercise in order to handle the chemicals associated with stress. Most people approach exercise as pushing yourself to your limits. Bas, on the other hand, emphasizes that walks and light jogging can do our happiness levels a load of good, more so than “no pain, no gain” exercise. I was glad to see him take the time to explain the difference between exercising for stress relief and exercising for weight loss, the latter hardly ever being maintained in the long-term. This distinction is so rarely made that it really stuck with me when Bas mentioned it.
Of course, this book is not without its flaws. Namely, I noticed a fair number of proofreading errors which were, at times, distracting. Bas does not use American English, which may explain some of what I interpreted as errors. (I’m only familiar with American English.) Nevertheless, I know this regional difference does not account for everything. The mistakes do not detract from the general quality of the book, especially the content itself, but I wish more proofreading had been done.
Overall, I found Joy.ology to be both informative and enjoyable. Proofreading errors aside, I recommend this book to anyone searching for the secret behind true happiness or for people who have a curious mind. It won’t change your life right away, but it’ll point you in the right direction.
If you want to check out Bas’s book, you can find it as a Kindle e-book or in paperback on Amazon.
You know of any books I should read or want your work reviewed on this blog? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on Fiverr and we can arrange something.