Sunday, April 01, 2007

Don't Worry...Be Happy or Not..Happiness Demystified or Further Confused?

Lately, there were a few entries among bloggers about the subject of " happiness". And Today in the Sunday Star Edition on line and print, Linda Hurst, a long time writer and columnist of the paper, has a very timely article on the subject with views of many "experts’ and studies that were done on the subject:

Some of the selected excerpts I will print here, or read the whole article at this link:

Low expectations may trump wealth, Psychologists and social scientists have long studied happiness. Now economists are looking at ways of incorporating it in their own models. There's just one problem: satisfaction may have nothing to do with money. And, as Lynda Hurst discovers, the real key to happiness may well be low expectations.]

"I've been rich and I've been poor. Believe me, rich is better."
Mae West, Gertrude Stein and sundry others

Yes, well, no argument there. It's better.

But it's not nirvana.

The age-old assumption that when it comes to money, more equals better, is proving to be just that: an assumption.

Turns out that once people have their basic needs covered, more money can buy more things – luxuries that have morphed into essentials – but not more satisfaction.

Me: More satisfaction = More Happiness.

And now from the "experts" on the newfound studies results that says
link between rising income and rising well-being has broken down.

Leading British economist Richard Layard has this to say:

"How else to understand the "paradox at the heart of our lives?" . We have more money, more food, nicer clothes, faster cars, bigger houses, more gadgets, more holidays and, above all, better health, but "as Western societies have got richer, their people have become no happier".
Layard, a policy adviser to U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, is already calling happiness economics a "new science." Others say it's neither new nor a science.

Economist John Crispo, former Dean of University of Toronto Rotman’s School of Business added his piece:

Economics is vague enough as it is.. How on earth do you measure happiness? What happens if you do? I'm unhappy about taxes – what are you going to do about it?"
Crispo thinks the traditional indicator of rising incomes is still the best way of assessing well-being: "Don't tell me people at the bottom wouldn't feel better if they had a little more income."

The Writer Linda Hurst:

Nobody is. But researchers say the feeling doesn't last.

Our wants are relative, not to some absolute measure but to what other people have. "Status anxiety," envy and one-upmanship all run deep in the human psyche, and the bounty of the free market caters to them all. Coveting and acquiring things once seen as frills but now necessities keeps us on an endless treadmill.

More from the Experts and Scholars:

University of Toronto Philosopher Mark Kingwell (he has written books on the subject)
"But if Western governments ever decide to attempt to maximize citizens' happiness, they'll first have to figure out what, exactly, it is. Good luck."

"No economic measures can fully grasp the fullness of what happiness means, because happiness is a contestable concept," he says. "And that contest is philosophical, not economic.
And he wryly noted in his book Better Living published in l998 "engaging in arguments about happiness is one of the key forms of human happiness."

Now it’s getting confusing, isn’t it?

And now back to Linda Hurst, the Author of this article:

Just as well, because there are arguments aplenty. Researchers can't even (yet) explain some of their findings. To wit, the "chicken-and-egg" question: happy people tend to earn higher incomes, but is it because they're better workers or do they work better because they're happy?

And here the one that makes a little sense:

In an echo of Oscar Wilde's famous maxim, "It is not enough that I succeed. Others must fail," research has found that personal gain is far sweeter if it's denied to others. You get a pay raise, good; your peers do not, better.

It's called the economics of position. One study of Harvard students and staff found that, given a choice between earning $50,000 a year while other people make $25,000, or earning $100,000 a year while other people get $250,000, the majority select the first option.

In other words, many people would welcome $6 if someone else got $5. But they'd be even happier with $5 if the other guy got $1.

This is getting too long so I’ll just add one more from another Harvard Guy and this is what he has to say:

Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert says human beings are the only animals that think about the future, and much of our happiness depends on projecting what will make us happy.

"We treat our future selves as though they were our children," Gilbert writes in Stumbling On Happiness, "spending most of the hours of most of our days constructing tomorrows that we hope will make them happy."

But the kids inevitably turn out to be ingrates, complaining of the course taken, and downward we plunge.

Me: somehow I agree with the last expert, the Psychologist. But then we are entirely a different Class of Animals, and we, until today have not really understood the meaning of Life, never mind the meaning of Happiness. Prove of this, hundred different "animals" will give a hundred different opinions on the subjects..

This is a very interesting article, read it in it’s entirety from the link above and maybe you can have something to say what Happiness really means and they might make much more sense than all these experts had to say. Because Happiness is intangible thing and kind of hard to measure by any studies, but for me having a good health, without aching back, and creaking knees every time you take that one small step forward and back and perhaps a healthy bank account would be a great help. Don’t we all wish for the last part?