Six years ago, I was unhappy. Positive psychology, the ‘science’ of happiness, offered hope that traditional psychology did not.

So I started this blog. I would research a topic and write up my findings, hoping to help both myself and others.

But three years ago, I stopped.

Not because no one was reading what I wrote. Fifteen to thirty thousand people visit each month.

I stopped for two reasons.

Unwarranted Enthusiasm

Growing up, I had what is known as Asian tiger parents. Grades were everything – a letter other than an A a disaster.

I recall getting a C+ on an assignment once. The teacher wanted me to get it signed by my parents, so that they knew of my failing. I was so frightened of what would happen that I forged the required signature. My forgery was discovered, but luckily the teacher didn’t report me.

My initial exposure to positive psychology appealed to me because it made this claim, “People are irrational. People do x, y, and z in the pursuit of happiness and satisfaction, but actually they’re being bamboozled. Instead of relying on old, corrupted neural circuitry, let’s rely on science.”

Looking at my parents, that’s what I saw. They worked 12 hour days, five and a half days a week. But they didn’t seem that happy.

I had worked hard, just like they wanted. I didn’t feel happy.

“Money only logarithmically buys happiness?” I’m sold.

Science is a process of truth seeking. Make a prediction, run an experiment, observe the results.

Sounds good, but while the incentives that guide research in the social sciences do gradually expand our frontiers of understanding, they do so horribly inefficiently.

Having read through hundreds of positive psychology papers, I was at first incredibly excited. All of these wonderful ideas with large effect sizes!

But after learning about epistemology, p-hacking, and the replication crisis, I saw large flaws in most papers. Unreported attrition based selection effects, unjustified subgroup analysis, fifty variables collected, fifty opportunities for a positive result, a dearth of replications, and so on.

Some of the blame lies with the human brain. It’s probably the most complicated thing in the universe and is bad about providing feedback about itself. Lots of room to make mistakes.

But the primary method made to overcome this problem – complex statistical analysis – just opened up more avenues for abuse.

Ironically, Marty Seligman once wanted to do something about the problem.

Marty Seligman, past president of the American Psychological Association (APA):1

APA presidents are supposed to have an initiative and… I thought mine could be “evidence-based treatment and prevention.” So I went to my friend, Steve Hyman, the director of [National Institute of Mental Health]. He was thrilled and told me he would chip in $40 million dollars if I could get APA working on evidence-based treatment.

So I told CAPP [which owns the APA] about my plan and about NIMH’s willingness. I felt the room get chillier and chillier. I rattled on. Finally, the chair of CAPP memorably said, “What if the evidence doesn’t come out in our favor?”

…I limped my way to [my friend’s] office for some fatherly advice.

“Marty,” he opined, “you are trying to be a transactional president. But you cannot out-transact these people…”

And so I proposed that Psychology turn its… attention away from pathology and victimology and more toward what makes life worth living: positive emotion, positive character, and positive institutions. I never looked back and this became my mission for the next fifteen years. The endeavor… caught on.

Positive psychology has produced some useful ideas, but I think the world would be a far better place if Seligman had instead focused on increasing the speed at which the field progresses.

There are efforts being made to make things better – open access, pre-registration, and increased replication funding being the most promising. But it’ll be a while before these initiatives make a large difference.

Methodological Uncertainty

How can you tell if doing something increases happiness? Ideally, you run a double blind placebo controlled study. You measure the happiness of all study participants, do the thing to some of them and a control to the others, then measure their happiness again.

If the happiness of the active group goes up more than the control, you’ve got a winner – something with promise, which should be investigated further.

But we care about more than just feeling good.

We strive for more, again and again. Not only because we’re chasing happiness, but because we care. If given the option, I would not sacrifice my goals for becoming a bliss bunny.

We can ask about life satisfaction instead, but that has its own problems.

Ideally, a person has perfect introspective awareness and rationality. Their answer to “On a scale of 1 to 5, how satisfied are you with your life?” is a perfect summation of the degree to which their values are being fulfilled.

Positive psychology is, at its essence, trying to increase the value of that number. So what if some people have poor introspection or are making incorrect calculations, messing up the results a bit? It’s better than nothing. Besides, self-reported life satisfaction correlates with some measures which are objective, like life expectancy.

That’s what I use to say to detractors. I’m no longer sure. My thoughts on the matter are a work in progress – perhaps I’ll write more about it in the future.

What now?

I’ve considered taking the site down. I’m sure that some of the things that I wrote helped people. But I’m also sure that through my naivety and ignorance, I provided false insights – ideas and tools that seem to help, and in the short-term perhaps even do, but in the long-term waste time or cause harm.

On balance, did I do more harm or more good? I don’t know.

I could also take the time to re-write the articles I find lacking. But I no longer have the interest.

In the end, I’m leaving this site up for two reasons.

One, I’ve put hundreds of hours into this site. Taking it down would be like erasing a piece of my history.

Two, some people say they find the things I’ve written useful. Perhaps I should trust them.


Every single feeling of perception – of touch, of smell, of color – can be traced back to a particular set of neurons.

Stimulate those neurons directly and a person’s perception of reality can be controlled.

In the 1940s, neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield experimented with the brains of his patients. He sent mild electric shocks to their somatosensory cortex.

As a result, they felt as if their body was being touched even when it wasn’t. A shock to one area, a feeling of their arm being pushed, a shock to another and a feeling of their upper lip being nipped.

Science fiction takes brain stimulation technology to its extreme – fully immersive virtual reality. Want the user to feel as if he’s actually boxing, not just waving his hands in the air? Sense his arm and body movements. Then stimulate the neurons responsible for his fist and arm when he gives a hit and the neurons responsible for his head and nose when he takes one.

But why limit direct stimulation of the brain to physical perception?

Stimulate the brain’s happiness centers and BAM – you’ve got happiness on demand.

You can purchase a direct brain stimulation device online, plunk it on your head, pick a brain region, get zapping, and enhance your mood, memory, and attention.

You can spend 25 years working hard in order to make your life perfect and finally get those happiness neurons firing as much as you want, or just maybe, you can use tDCS for 25 days.

[click to continue…]


Overthinking is evil.

Like the whispers of a devil, it pretends to help while just making the situation worse.

What can you do to reduce it?

Unfortunately, the cure is as complex as the cause.

But follow these 7 steps and you can slowly but surely rid yourself of the poison known as overthinking.

Step 0 – Get Treatment if Depressed
Step 1 – Understand That You Can Influence Your Emotions
Step 2 – Accept That Overthinking Won’t Give You an Insight
Step 3 – Know When You’re Overthinking
Step 4 – Ignore Your Rationalizations
Step 5 – Assert Control
Step 6 – Distract Yourself
Step 7 – Tackle The Problem

[click to continue…]


It’s an idea repeated so often that it’s now taken for fact – depression is on the rise.

If true, modern society has messed up.

In 1985, 10% of people had no one to discuss important matters with. By 2004, that number had grown to 25% – one out of every four people! (1)

We’re spending less time with other people, eating worse food, and getting less exercise, sunlight, and sleep.

Surely the rate of depression has gone up.

My father disagrees.

Normally that wouldn’t mean anything to me – he believes lots of crazy things. But he’s a psychiatrist.

Psychiatrists are the ones who invented the scientific study of mental dysfunction.

The field has problems. But they base many of their beliefs off of empirical evidence, not armchair philosophizing, like what used to be common (think Freud and penis envy).

Psychiatry has insights to offer.

Is the idea that the rise of depression is more media sensationalization than hard journalism one of them?

[click to continue…]



What do the most successful people do differently?

Why are some people able to bounce back from failure?

What allows some couples to stay happily together for many decades?

What do very happy people do differently?

These are the questions asked by the science of positive psychology.

Through the efforts of hundreds of scientists conducting thousands of experiments, case studies and analyses we’ve started getting answers – insights into how we can become happier.

Happier Human was created to make those insights accessible. So that you can improve your life and the lives of others.

Most of what I produce is free, but at the end of the day I’ve got to be able to eat and pay rent.
[click to continue…]


More and more people are getting fat.

From the growing waistlines and rates of cardiovascular disease it’s obvious.

We call it the obesity epidemic.

But there’s another epidemic that’s been spreading that’s just as bad.

Why is the rate of depression on the rise?

Why do we feel more stressed than ever before?

There’s an overthinking epidemic.

20% of Baby Boomers, 52% of Gen Xers, and 73% of Gen Yers are overthinkers. (1)

Less than 27% of people younger than 30 remain healthy!

This is part two of a three part series on overthinking. In part two, you’ll learn four of the reasons this virus has been getting worse, infecting more and more of the population.

  1. Quick fixes work.
  2. Chronic stressors are on the rise.
  3. Dreaming comes with a cost.
  4. Introspection has gone too far.

Read part one to take the Are You an Overthinker quiz and find out why overthinking is so dangerous.

[click to continue…]