A professor named Ed Diener at the University of Illinois is among the leading scientists studying happiness. In fact, a whole new area of psychology, known as positive psychology, has emerged in the past few years devoted specifically to understanding what creates favorable feelings or mindsets, such as life satisfaction or upbeat attitudes. A few years ago, Martin Seligman, another psychologist, published the book "Authentic Happiness" in which he described this new movement and some of its characteristics. A website devoted to authentic happiness (with over 700K registered users) is cited in the list of links on this blogsite.
Among the mildly surprising findings from emerging research on happiness is that, on average, people tend to be reasonably happy. It is also worth noting that in cross national studies, some surprising findings have emerged. The top five happiest countries, it seems, are NOT among the world's richest: 1. Nigeria 2. Mexico 3. Venezuela 4. El Salvador 5. Puerto Rico. (Source: University of Michigan World Values Survey (WVS). Only Denmark and Ireland break into the top five when an alternate measure is used. In case you are curious, the U.S. ranked 15th out of 79 countries studied.
So what accounts for this? Clearly, neither per capita income nor standard of living as measured by material goods are determinants of happiness. (But we knew this, despite the pervasive greed attack that put us into the world economic mess we now face.) It seems that buying more simply creates the illusion that buying even more objects will eventually get us to the poorly defined destination of happiness we crave. But enough on that topic. You can read more about this if you want at the WVS website, or scientific articles at Ed Diener's website.
At the end of the day, happiness is a subjective state. It's what we perceive. Some people are ecstatic because they love what they do rather than what they earn. Some people have the best of both worlds. And many people believe that it's all about contentment and supportive, loving relationships. Important relationships exist for us all in many domains. For example, we have important relationships with ourselves, with others, with the environment, and with the world beyond, however we may want to define "the world beyond".
I'm curious about what YOU believe leads to personal happiness. Please share your thoughts below.
And...here's a toast to YOUR happiness in the year ahead!
DLW is an occasional blog about how people spend the time of their lives (every moment) to enable health, balance, meaning and fulfillment. As a blogspot about doing, it draws from personal stories and from studies of everyday living. It's main idea is that to be well, people must be involved fully in what they do. The activities that occupy our days help to connect us to the world, define who we are, and keep us healthy.
Great Links About What, How, Why, Where and How Often People Do Things
- Calculate your Life Expectancy
- O*Net - A terrific resource to get information about work related occupations
- Wisdom—A must see project of shared experience
- Brian R Little- About Personal Projects
- Authentic Happiness - Take the Work-Life Questionnaire
- wdydwdyd? (Why do you do what you do?)
- Calculate your weekly Time Use
- Bureau of Labor Statistics -American Time Use Survey
- ► February (7)
Interesting Books about Doing and Not Doing
- Bateson, Mary Catherine—Composing a Life
- Bruner, Jerome—Acts of Meaning: Four Lectures On Mind and Culture
- Christiansen, Charles & Townsend, Elizabeth—Introduction to Occupation: The Art and Science of Living
- Csíkszentmihályi, Mihaly— Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
- Diener, Ed, & Biswas-Diener, Robert—Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth.
- Edgell, Stephen—The Sociology of Work: Continuity and Change in Paid and Unpaid Work
- Gini, Al—The Importance of Being Lazy: In Praise of Play, Leisure and Vacations
- Kabat-Zinn, Jon—Whereever You Go, There You Are
- Little, Brian; Salmela-Aro, Katerina; and Phillips, Susan D. — Personal Projects Analysis: Goals, Actions and Human Flourishing
- Matuska, K & Christiansen, C. — Life Balance -Multidisciplinary Theories and Research
- McAdams, Dan P. —The Stories We Live By: Personal Myths and the Making of the Self
- Robinson, John & Godbey, Geoffrey — Time for Life: The Surprising Ways Americans Use Their Time
- Seligman, Martin—Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment
- Tolle, Eckhart—The Power of Now