The Other I

June 22, 2011

Happiness

Happiness, as you may have noticed, has become a political issue.  Stimulated by a recent spate of research,  governments are asking whether it is part of their role to create conditions that are more apt to make people happier and not just richer.          David ChernoffTrue Happiness David Chernoff


I’ve read a lot of the research and find it quite interesting to examine some of the apparent patterns of reported happiness.  Once one is securely above the poverty line – probably what one might broadly say is able to afford a lower middle-class life style – money does not generally make people happier.  Getting older does.  Around the world middle age people are happier than younger people, and old people are often the most content of all.

I personally am not interested in giving a government chief responsibility for my happiness, though I do appreciate that there are things governments can do to make people happier.

But after reading this research I have been asking myself  about what specifically makes me happy.  Like almost everyone else, my family and friends are critical.  But beyond that, each of us are individuals.  What, I have been asking myself, do I enjoy most often in an ordinary day?  Is there a pattern that we can detect in our own lives that tell us something about ourselves?  perhaps what kind of career we would find fulfilling, or even what activities we find make for the best weekends, or best retirement, or best summer holiday?

I was talking to the granddaughter of a friend yesterday who is trying to decide on her major in college as a preparation for her adult life.  We began to talk about happiness research and have agreed that each of us will keep a list of three things we most enjoy each day, and at the end of a month will analyze each list to see what we can learn about ourselves.

I hope in a couple of months time to be able to report on whether this is a useful endeavor for either young or old.

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5 Comments »

  1. Hi there – great post – and I might use it to inspire one of my own!
    I had a happiness epiphany when the boiler burst in the attic – that the circumstances of my life had absolutely no bearing on my happiness. Which I found reassuring. I also had a chat once with someone who went on about contentment and discontent – that if you aren’t happy with what you have you’ll never be happy with what you have because you are not happy with what you have. I liked that.
    Thanks for getting my grey matter going. I’ll give it further thought.

    Comment by sanstorm — June 23, 2011 @ 8:58 am | Reply

    • Thank you for the feedback. I’m finding already that keeping the list is turning up some unexpected insights. It might be fun to compare notes in the future.

      In the meantime, I agree with you completely: if you aren’t happy with what you have, you’ll never be happy. I do sometimes remind myself, though, that that I’ve got what I think you might call a basically optimistic bio-chemistry. Members of my family who suffer from the depression that also runs in my family I suspect have a much harder time of it.

      Comment by Terry Sissons — June 23, 2011 @ 3:47 pm | Reply

      • Yes, we are at the mercy of our brain chemistry – which is why I am so “risk-averse”, I think. I get no kicks from… pretty much anything that is officially “fun”/dangerous etc.
        We too have depression out there in the genes – but I have only seen the cloud forming before me during one spell in particular, but I managed to dodge its shadow.
        In normal life I am crushingly optimistic – but I feel as if I choose to be.

        Comment by sanstorm — June 25, 2011 @ 10:28 pm

      • Thank you for your comment. It’s particularly interesting to be because I’m risk-aversive as well. And I can’t bear movies and television shows in which people are suffering or even walking into what I know are dangerous situations. And only once in my life (almost twice as long as yours at this point, I think) have I had to deal with the shadow of severe depression. In retrospect, it wasn’t clinical depression but mourning at a loss.

        I never described myself as “crushingly” optimistic, but I definitely am a glass half full person. Interestingly, I discovered recently that my husband – who tends to take a glass-half-empty perspective – often fears that I am going to be “crushingly” disappointed because I’m always expecting the best. His view is that it’s better to be prepared for the worst and then be delighted when it turns out to be better than expected.

        Be interesting to know if you have an important person in your life who takes the darker view as automatically as you take the optimistic one. For myself, I have found it often creates a constructive tension that improves both our outlooks.

        Comment by Terry Sissons — June 26, 2011 @ 3:17 pm

  2. Nope – my other half is even more optimistic! He’s read a lot of “How-to” books and loves to think big! He is a risk taker AND optimistic – so that’s our balance – I am optimistic but I’d rather not take risks. So we do have a balance of sorts.

    Comment by sanstorm — June 26, 2011 @ 7:13 pm | Reply


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