What Makes Your Brain Happy And Why You Should Do The Opposite.

These are my thoughts on a book by David DiSalvo.

I hope you’re ready for a deep dive into the inner workings of the human brain with today’s book. David DiSalvo has scoured the earth in search of all the reasons currently available for the irrational quirks of humans. Loaded with tons of empirical evidence and some pretty awesome and very interesting (almost scary) studies done by researchers over the past several decades, you will learn from this book alone how truly flawed the human brain can be. And I do mean CAN be. Once you understand the reasons why your brain attaches itself to certain ideas or reacts to certain situations in certain ways, you can then work on being more mindful of them. Almost like a reverse engineering method.

This book was a long read. I read it sporadically over the course of about 8 months. The first 80% or so of the book is David breaking down almost every barrier imaginable of why we act the way we do. He starts the intro out with this sentence – Our Brains are prediction and pattern detection machines that desire stability, clarity, and consistency- which is terrific, except when it’s not. Each part, 6 in total, touch on the various aspects of human behavior. From why we crave certainty, and the outlandish things we do/think to feel “certain”, to why we end up regretting having things that we were almost certain we wanted in the first place. Also inside is how we construct the future based off the past, and why our memories are very easily distorted from what actually happened, which is pretty scary when you think of things like “eyewitness testimonies.”

Part 6 was a bit different but probably the best part of the book in my opinion. Part 1 through 5 are similarly formatted – David breaks down each of the ways we do the irrational. But in Part 6 named Mind the Gap, he gives a more concise breakdown of each of the aforementioned parts – more importantly, David gives his insight on what you can do to thwart this behavior based off the research done and relayed throughout the book. Mind the Gap is broken down into 50 parts, each part roughly a paragraph or two long.

Part 2 of Part 6 (also labeled Chapter 16) will really knock the wind out of your sails (or wind into them really) with somewhat of a philosophical take on David’s part.

“Our obligation is to give meaning to life and in doing so to overcome the passive, indifferent life.” -Elie Wiesel, Essay on Indifference

“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”

-Albert Camus, Youthful Writings

In closing, David leaves us with a 3 part final say. First he tells us to stop horsing around and stop chasing perfection and in doing so we will have a more fulfilling life. Then he breaks down his thoughts on “finding the meaning of life.” The above quotes were from the beginning of the chapter. It does make a lot of sense to me that finding the meaning of life or happiness even tend to be similar to that of chasing a butterfly, just like in the Henry David Thoreau quote about happiness. And in using the evidence he found throughout writing this book, he explores how certainty and other brain-flaws play a part in this constant quest for the meaning of life. He stresses that it’s not the question that needs to be asked but the answer that needs to be answered.

“It is our burden alone to answer questions about our world that go well beyond instinctual reaction and rudimentary learning.” And “…to make meaning of that experience and live out our meaning.”

In his final 2 paragraphs labeled Cognito Finito, David sums it up with pointing out that the mind is a very messy place, often filled with ambiguity, and these things will lead us to frustration, confusion, and several other emotions. We will often sabotage ourselves by thinking and acting in ways that do not serve our best interests. But he shines through the clouds with pointing out that the last word is still ours, and the meaning we give our lives is what sets us apart from every other species on the planet….except maybe dolphins…? (is that even a real thing?)

I am kicking myself for taking 8 months to fully read this book. I may have been distracted at some point or found another book to read… happens a lot. You know, dopamine and all. But I’ve read a good share of psychology books up to this point. Some more strange and taboo than others (like anything by Malcolm Gladwell) but most usually about something specific to human nature. Which is really EVERYTHING we do in life to some degree. What I mean by that is this – if you read a book about marketing, it will probably touch a lot on the psychology of human behavior in buying or being influenced, same with any sales book worth its salt. What about relationships? Or Networking? There’s science behind that, thus psychology. I’m sure we could punch down a few more niche areas and get super specific but the reason I’m saying this is because What Makes Your Brain Happy And Why You Should Do The Opposite doesn’t really touch on any particular area, but touches on all of them. In many cases, people will say to “specialize” in one niche, which is a good idea, David even has a part about specialization vs generalization in the book, and you can guess who comes out ahead in most scenarios. But this book is pretty general, which is why I enjoyed it and learned so much from it. If I had a Top 3 books about Psychology, this would be one of them for sure.

David’s style of writing is very to-the-point. He doesn’t float around with any spiritual or ‘feel good’ terminology to inspire – which certainly isn’t a bad thing, since emotional memories are always the most vivid – but could be a let down for some. Now that I mention it, I can see why it took me 8 months to finish this book. Just kidding – in the end, any reader will appreciate the effort put into this book to make us realize the pitfalls of the human mind, and – hopefully – allow us to be more mindful when using our powerful noggins.

The back of the book also has mini-descriptions of the books David has read on his journey to writing this that is also worth a look.

As I’ve said before, the mind can be like a 6-speed Ferrari, and most people can’t even drive stick. Buying this book will make your brain happy and why you should buy it:

      • You own/run a business

      • You work with people daily

      • You manage people and want them to succeed at ambiguous tasks

      • You want a better understanding of how to deal with ambiguity

      • You’re new to Psychology

      • You work in sales

      • You work in Marketing

      • You are a parent

      • You are a Teacher

      • You are trying to fix certain habits in your life

      • You are looking for ways to be more productive

      • You are looking for ways to make sense of peoples irrational behavior

      • You need a good book to help fend off peoples irrational behavior (with logic)

        • If you want to use the book as a weapon itself, I’d advise a hardcover, not paperback

          • I don’t advise using the book as a weapon by the way

      • You have a brain

      • You can read

      • You are human

      • You are NOT a dolphin

Thanks for reading.

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