Honorary Associate Professor in Philosophy, University of Nottingham

My friends call me Happiness Sam. Over the past decade, I've done a PhD on happiness, worked for a charity called Happy City, and lived on a street called Gratitude Road. I've just finished writing a book on happiness. Perhaps surprisingly, after all that experience, the book isn't about how to be happy. In fact, it's called The Happiness Problem.

I'm an Honorary Associate Professor at Nottingham University. I've published academic articles on a number of happiness and wellbeing topics, including the nature of happiness, the measurement of happiness and wellbeing, the role of wellbeing in public policy, the co-benefits of subjective wellbeing, and wellbeing and mental health.

My book is about how we are currently thinking about happiness in the wrong way. We think that happiness comes from control: if only we could get everything in our lives just right - the perfect job, relationship, family, body and mind - then we'd be happy. This way of thinking about happiness is not only too simple, it can also be harmful. The more we focus on the things we can control, the more we blind ourselves to what really matters.

The right way of thinking about happiness is to stop thinking about what will make us happy. We need to focus less on control and more on understanding. And we need to do the same on a social level. Instead of reacting to major social issues with certainty, urgency and blame, we can respond with humility, curiosity and compassion. The Happiness Problem is about the forces of control and understanding in our personal and social lives.

Experience

  • –present
    Honorary Associate Professor in Philosophy, University of Nottingham