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The Science of Happiness

April 1, 2010
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There is an interesting article in the New York Times called “The Sandra Bullock Trade”, which, despite having an inane-sounding title, summarizes research on what factors make people happy. I am a tad frustrated there are no solid links to the research David Brooks is citing, but let’s assume for the time being he isn’t being deceitful. Here is an interesting paragraph after Brooks says that indeed earning extra money beyond middle-class sufficiency contributes near nil to additional happiness:

“If the relationship between money and well-being is complicated, the correspondence between personal relationships and happiness is not. The daily activities most associated with happiness are sex, socializing after work and having dinner with others. The daily activity most injurious to happiness is commuting. According to one study, joining a group that meets even just once a month produces the same happiness gain as doubling your income. According to another, being married produces a psychic gain equivalent to more than $100,000 a year.”

Food for thought…

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 1, 2010 7:02 PM

    I remember reading a while back (but don’t remember where…) that most people essentially live their life at a “base” happiness level. If we get a promotion say, or win the lottery, we’ll have a brief spurt of happiness, but sooner or later we’ll return to being just as happy (or unhappy) as before. What will have changed is our source of worries. Instead of worrying if I’ll be able to afford the holiday I’ve got planned, or whether i’ll have time to get the DIY done, I switch to worrying that the guy hasn’t polished my car right, or my investments might not do well. Our happiness stays the same but our worries change.

  2. Hester permalink
    August 8, 2010 9:39 PM

    I particularly liked the idea that governments should concern themselves with social conditions. I’m living in Tunisia at the moment and there’s a prevailing “every man for himself” attitude. People working in service type jobs seem much more reluctant to be helpful (don’t get me started on passport control) and also seem to be much more miserable about having to work than in any other county I have been in.

    And for Christian’s comment, from Robert Winston’s “The Human Mind”:

    Disposition – like personality; constant and measureable over time, so if someone was disposed to be a worrier then they will go from worrying about the DIY to their investments etc.

    Mood – transient, related to specific times, situations, triggers, hard to control and it is possible to have one’s mood altered without even being aware of it. e.g. “retail atmospherics”, the science of techniques to alter the moods of shoppers.

    Emotion – transient, more conscious, communicative form of behaviour which we can show a degree of control over. e.g. suppressing joy if someone close by has received some bad news.

    Ok so this is me now but from how I see it; disposition would give an individual their range responses to different situations and their current mood would give them where in this range they respond, i.e. with which emotion and with which strength. So I guess happiness would stem from things which positively affect your mood; friends, meditation, maths, coffee, beer which wasn’t made in Tunisia… I have no doubt that you can affect your base mood/happiness by the lifestyle you “choose” and the company you keep.

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