I’m what they call an award-winning writer, with seven books and many magazine credits to my name. It’s pretty amazing, at least from the point of view of a public-school kid from suburban Phoenix. You can read my standard bio here. But I wrote The Happiness Curve despite my resume, not because of it.
By the age of 45, I had fulfilled all of my important life goals, yet was five years into a seemingly inexplicable, intractable, unending funk. Not a depression, not a crisis: more like a deficit of gratitude and satisfaction. I knew something was amiss when I won the highest prize in magazine journalism and finally felt satisfied—for about ten days. I was embarrassed to feel so ungrateful, and so I didn’t tell anyone, and isolation only made it worse. But feeling this way just wasn’t reasonable.
I often wonder how different things might have been if I had known then what I know now. A few years ago, I stumbled on a new strand of research on happiness, one showing that time fights satisfaction until midlife, then switches sides when you have just about given up. So fascinating is the science, and so sweeping its implications, that I knew I had encountered something important. Plus, it turns out that just knowing about the happiness curve—knowing why malaise happens, why it’s perfectly normal, and how it can equip us for a rebirth of gratitude and even wisdom—is one of the best antidotes.
That’s why I wrote this book. The scientific detective story is intriguing. (Economists, of all people, made the big discoveries.) The phenomenon is fundamental. (It also occurs in chimps and orangutans.) And foreknowledge is the best defense.
After I wrote a magazine article in The Atlantic about the happiness curve, I received a bounty of testimony from people saying it helped them. I know it helped me.
Also, equipped with understanding of the happiness curve, we can all do more to help each other. If my book leaves people with that message, I will be…well, satisfied.