Happiness

May 13, 2019 at 10:01 pm | Posted in Economoney, Health, Psychology, Science | 2 Comments
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In a recent visit to the dentist, I saw an interesting article on Happiness. It was the cover story of the US National Geographic magazine of November 2017.

The article reviewed research on happiness with examples from 3 of the countries ranked top of the annual World Happiness Report.

Broadly, happiness comes from social connection, financial sufficiency, a sense of purpose, connection with our larger community, and physical activity. The article narrowed it down to pleasure, purpose and pride but I’d suggest those are a little narrow and self-serving. As the research shows, chasing a self-serving dream can lead to less satisfaction and more disconnection. A balanced life is key, even if we take time to get there.

How we get there varies widely.

Denmark has a government-supported education, health care, and a financial safety net. They have a built environment that encourages physical activity. Many people live in cooperatives.

Costa Rica has a terrain that discouraged large farms and a powerful land-holding class. The government could bring in education, medical, and social security. People have rich social lives, sleep well, are active and eat fresh whole food.

Singapore is a global city but rooted in traditional Asian values of harmony, respect, and hard work. Financial success is important but also well supported.

But none of these arise from passivity. We have to move towards happiness. We can find purpose through meaningful work, success, or volunteering and our role in the community. Social connections and close friendships have to be cultured and supported. We can also culture activity, as in walking to work.

And this can be strongly influenced by government policy.

“…three-quarters of human happiness is driven by six factors: strong economic growth, healthy life expectancy, quality social relationships, generosity, trust, and freedom to live the life that’s right for you. These factors don’t materialize by chance; they are intimately related to a country’s government and its cultural values. In other words the happiest places incubate happiness for their people.” – World Happiness Report researchers

If we don’t feel secure and don’t have opportunities for education, work, and a role in our community, it will be very difficult to create a supportive life that creates happiness. This is basic Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Key also is the ability to maximize joy while minimizing stress. The N. American work environment has been deteriorating lately, pushing longer hours and higher stress. Corporations are structured to maximize profits. But if they do not recognize that they’re ultimately for people, they can become dysfunctional. “Money can’t buy happiness.” It’s good to have enough but chasing money for it’s own sake becomes a fool’s game we lose in the end. How can you support relationships and community if you’re always working? How can a company support people if it ruins their health?

And a small tidbit: “Several types of evidence are used to link rising use of digital media with falling happiness.” For example, Facebook research found that people were depressed by comparing their lives with those portrayed by others, who were only sharing the good times.

The article also talked about 3 types of happiness:
1 – Experienced happiness or positive affect, happiness from the pleasure of daily living (Costa Rica example)
2 – Eudaimonic happiness, from a life of meaning and purpose (Danish example)
3 – Life satisfaction or evaluative happiness, from perceived accomplishments (Singapore example)

In my experience, real happiness comes from within. By supporting those aspects of our life that allow us to grow and thrive, happiness will arise naturally.

Links for more:
The current World Happiness Report

Best places in the US. The 2017 article above put Boulder, CO on top.

David

2 Comments »

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  1. Hi David
    Would you agree that some people are just naturally happier than others – when comparing the same or similar situation? Positive vs Negative individuals.
    I also believe that the widening discrepancy between the middle class and the very rich has resulted in a profound increase in general unhappiness. When you start comparing and feel you have been left behind, experienced happiness takes a hit (Ref your Facebook comment)
    I always enjoy your analysis David, thanks!

    Like

  2. Hi Richard
    Yes, some people have a higher “set point” for happiness. Psychologists used to think this was fixed but have more recently found that it’s not. We can shift our set point or default level up and enjoy a greater quality of life.
    .
    If we place our well-being on our job and income, the current economy is indeed going to be challenging for many. If we compare ourselves with others, we’ll always find others who appear to be “better”. As other articles here outline, there is major changes underway in our economy. Many existing jobs are disappearing. However, if we can be agile and understand sufficiency, we’re not going to be carried by the changing tides as much.
    https://davidya.ca/2007/09/21/sufficiency/
    .
    And if you want a real relative sense of your wealth, try this. Most N. Americans are in the top %s.
    http://www.globalrichlist.com/

    Like


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