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.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Happiness is...

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!

1 comment:

  1. Your post is an interesting one. I have long been interested in Seligman's work yet at times have a slightly different view of the term "happiness". Seligman has revolutionalized a field of psychology that was often disability based. His approaches are cognitive behavioral in nature, and often life enhancing. I deeply appreciate his books, his websites, and his views.

    You asked viewers to comment on what makes them happy. Personally though an eternal optimist and one that usually scores 80-95 on the happiness indexes at the authentic happiness site, I still view happiness as a temporal emotion and joy as more permanent. To me joy comes from the depth of faith, a strong conviction in who I am and personal beliefs, and love shared with God, self, and others. Though joy is always within me, I am mindful that happiness and sadness are temporal states of which we all have our own personal "meters". Thankfully I am usually on the happy end, yet too I feel the spectrum deeply, ... and personally believe it is in fully experiencing both the happy and sad, that we fully realize the beauty in life, and can come to fully realize the joys. Thanks for your thoughtful post.. I too recommend www.happier.com (I am a member). I have deeply appreciated all it has to offer including information, exercises, and assessments.

    Blessings, and I am interested, what makes you happy?


About Me

I am a writer, lifelong student, former academic and new blogger. My passion continues to be everyday living. I am interested in what people do, how, when and why they do it, and what it means for their their understanding of the world and hence, their well being.