There’s a lot of brush to be cleared before we can be happier, far too many bad habits and false assumptions that each of has learned through the course of our experience. The fact that so many of the things that make us miserable have been recurring issues in our lives for such a long time—depression, overeating, unhappy relationships, self-defeating behavior, disorganization, too much worry—is enough in itself to suggest that normal problem-solving skills aren’t going to help. Much of the time our brain has learned skills of misery—for good reasons, from painful experiences. Some of them we just seem to have been born with. Others are our attempts to adapt to a difficult world.

The next pages describe our biggest obstacles to happiness: our brains, our minds, and our culture. There's also the problem of the happiness thermostat. Most of us seem to have a setpoint for happiness to which we always return after good or bad experiences. That's why some seem to be constitutionally bubbly, while others tend to be consistently grumpy. Changing the setpoint is one of the most important tasks in learning to be happier.

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