Friday April 16, 2004

Happiness: some observations

Category: Opinionated | 0 Comments | Posted 21:45

So I came across this article in The Guardian...
with nothing better to do, let me share some random wisdom with you.

Many psychologists argue that if the incidence of depressive illnesses is a guide (three to 10 times higher today than in 1950), then misery and angst are on the rise. [...] One explanation is that under capitalism we spend too much time looking over our shoulders at the Joneses. The other - more compelling - theory is that because of higher educational expectations and the onus on achievement, more and more of us are tortured by our failure to live up to the aspirations of youth.
Ja, makes sense I suppose. I can totally relate to that at the moment - despite my well known lack of ambition. But wait, it gets worse.
'People start out in life pretty certain that they're going to end up like David Beckham or win the Nobel Prize,' says Oswald. 'Then, after a few years, they discover it's quite tough out there - not just in their careers, but in life. Unsurprisingly, their happiness drops.' The good news is that the downer doesn't last. According to Oswald, if you trace the trajectory of most peoples' happiness over time it resembles a J-curve. People typically record high satisfaction levels in their early twenties. These then fall steadily towards middle age, before troughing at around 42. Most of us then grow steadily happier as we get older, with those in their sixties expressing the highest satisfaction levels of all - as long, that is, as they stay healthy.
:o Imagine! That means I'll become more and more unhappy until I'm 42!? That's over 15 years to go! I don't wanna wait until I'm in my 60es to be happy again!?
Oswald estimates that a thriving marriage, for instance, is equivalent to an uplift of about 50,000 on his happiness distribution. But that isn't to say that money can never buy contentment. On the contrary, says Oswald, a 1m windfall is more than sufficient to lift someone at the bottom of his happiness curve towards the top.
Hehe imagine giving events in your life a 'happiness factor'. "My cat died, that cost me 5,000 in happiness points." *lol* I remember my mum saying something about how the death of a partner was the biggest tragedy that could happen to you in your life and only such-and-such could make up for it in positivity.
The important point to grasp, says Diener, is that although happiness has a large genetic component, none of us are prisoners of evolution. By identifying the sources of happiness in our lives and making a conscious effort to optimise them, most of us should be able to raise our average satisfaction levels. Or as Norman Vincent Peale succinctly puts it: 'Who decides whether you shall be happy or unhappy? The answer - you do.'
Hm ok if they say so. I do wonder about that tho. Forcing yourself to be happy when you're not seems like the ultimate pointless exercise. I remember that stupid "happiness book" I was supposed to keep - that never worked because I didn't perceive anything as making me happy at that point. I just wasn't receptive for happiness.
According to Seligman, there are three paths to happiness: the pleasant life, the good life and the meaningful life. The pleasant life is what most of us think of when considering whether we are happy from moment to moment. There are short cuts to this - such as taking drugs or playing mindless computer games - but sooner or later most people look in the mirror and ask: 'Is this all there is?'
There's gotta be more to life
than chasing down every temporary high
to satisfy me.

(Stacie Orrico - More to Life)
See if I weren't so pathetically lazy I'd go for the meaningful life. *ahem* Hooray for hedonism! Now someone give me loads of money please. Okay maybe I'm overdoing my cynicism here. I like the idea of a philanthropic life and I do believe you gain satisfaction from it, and yes it's probably longer-lasting than the short kick a hedonistic activity gives you. But, well... I'm not very good at thinking long term and on a big scale I have too much contempt for humanity to bother. Maybe right now is just not the best time to think about such things. *lol*

Source: On the Happy Trail (The Guardian)