FSU Professor Examines Happiness

By: Leonard Horton
By: Leonard Horton

For years FSU history professor Darrin McMahon has wanted to know what really makes us happy. He tackles the subject in a new book called "Happiness: A History.”

"I don't have the secret to happiness. If I did, I would be a wealthy man. But I do think the book takes a look at some of the answers to that question provided by some of the more brighter, more reflective people in our history," says McMahon.

In the book, McMahon examines happiness over the past 2,000 years looking at western politics, culture and thought.

He says the root of happiness, “hap” in old English, means luck, and for some time happiness was synonymous with good luck or fortune.

"In the 18th century, that idea began to change. People now feel that they have some role in controlling their own happiness, that they can control the world around them. I think we've been living with that legacy ever since," adds McMahon.

"I think a lot of people aren't happy because they are stressed out with working and school and all sorts of things going on. They need to relax," feels FSU student Ryan Shaw.

"I'm happy to be in school, happy to be active in the environment and to be around people that are happy," says FSU student Jacqueline Martin.

Already drawing praise from colleagues, McMahon hopes his new book appeals to both scholars and readers on the street, hopefully offering perspective in their quest for true happiness.

McMahon's research suggests that our expectations of happiness have been raised extremely high over the years, which causes us to become extremely unhappy when that goal isn't achieved.


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