"We infer that beyond about $75,000/y, there is no improvement whatever in any of the three measures of emotional well-being." Two social scientists at Princeton, Angus Deaton and Nobelist Daniel Kahneman, have a new paper in PNAS about money and the determinants of happiness. Increased income above $75,000 is not associated with higher subjective happiness, though it is associated with superior scores on measures of overall life satisfaction. Other tidbits: "Religion has a substantial influence on improving positive affect and reducing reports of stress, but no effect on reducing sadness or worry... The presence of children at home is associated with significant increases in stress, sadness, and worry."
On money and happiness Takeaway: buying stuff doesn't make you happier, although investing in experiences that strengthen social and familial bonds can. Interestingness: savings increased to 6.5% this year and some experts think this is permanent; conspicuous consumption is shifting to calculated consumption; “There’s massive literature on income and happiness. It’s amazing how little there is on how to spend your money.” [more inside]
On Self-Delusion and Bounded Rationality A short story by M.I.T. faculty member Scott Aaronson about a woman whose rationality got in the way of her happiness. [more inside]
Moving beyond GDP for an information-based society - If indeed[1,2] "A 'Quantum Leap' in Governance" is needed then, as part of the solution, we might start looking past GDP[5,6] and perhaps more toward "betterness instead of business, pursue awesomeness instead of innovation — and maximize good, instead of quarterly profits..." [more inside]
I'm just not sure that "happiness" is supposed to be the stable human condition, and I think it's punishing that we're constantly being pushed to achieve it. Screw Happiness, an essay on the folly of using happiness as a measure to define women's lives.
Pandora, Prometheus, and Pessimism. "Pessimism deserves serious consideration in today’s culture of Oprah-quick-fix happiness, Prozac induced euphoria, and unjustified optimism for our species. Unlike Oprah and Prozac, pessimism is not easy to swallow. It is time we consider this tradition in a culture steeped in farcical, puerile conceptions of happiness; an environment where every person who is able to grin on a book-cover can tell us how to achieve happiness now; where angels or god or some other fairy-tale character cares about our actions in this world. Life is not a grand, heroic narrative with a happy ending. It is not a place where we are overcoming obstacles in order to achieve a time in our lives of perfect serenity. In order to combat such serious obstructions to clear-thought, boundaries to reality and gateways to delusion, pessimism can help us shape our thoughts on matters which resonate with all us rational, bipedal apes."
Everybody Have Fun. In 1978, a trio of psychologists curious about happiness assembled two groups of subjects. In the first were winners of the Illinois state lottery. These men and women had received jackpots of between fifty thousand and a million dollars. In the second group were victims of devastating accidents. How happy had they been before these events? How about now? How about expectations for the future? These and other results have shown that hitting the jackpot fails to lift spirits along with a whole range of activities that people tend to think will make them happy (getting a raise, moving to California, or having kid). Is the United States a nation of joyless lottery winners? And are there implications for public policy decisions?
Change your mind, change your brain - Matthieu Ricard talks about creating the inner conditions for authentic happiness, and the effects of meditation on the brain. [more inside]
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is a survey that rated the 50 states of America from most to least happiest, based on things like emotional health, job satisfaction, and healthy decisions. The top states may surprise you.
We think it’s normal to work all day every day at a dead-end job. It’s normal to fight with our spouses and our children. It’s normal to eat and drink and drug ourselves to escape, to veg out and stare at a screen for hours a day just to dull the pain. It’s normal to hate our lives and be miserable, it’s normal to be lonely, it’s normal to feel hollow. The Freak Revolution Manifesto.
Children Full of Life - grade 4 students in Kanazawa, Japan learn deep life lessons from their incredible teacher and from each other. I strongly recommend this as awesome, but one caveat: keep tissues handy. (5 parts, 40 minutes total, English)
When Money Buys Happiness. List the ten most expensive things (products, services or experiences) that you have ever paid for (including houses, cars, university degrees, marriage ceremonies, divorce settlements and taxes). Then, list the ten items that you have ever bought that gave you the most happiness. Count how many items appear on both lists. [more inside]
Is there a formula—some mix of love, work, and psychological adaptation—for a good life? For 72 years, researchers at Harvard have been examining this question, following 268 men who entered college in the late 1930s through war, career, marriage and divorce, parenthood and grandparenthood, and old age. Here, for the first time, a journalist gains access to the archive of one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies in history. What Makes Us Happy?
Think having children will make you happy? Think again, suggests Nattavudh Powdthavee – you’re experiencing a focusing illusion [pdf]. [via.]
Now is the time for a less selfish capitalism - "we should stop the worship of money and create a more humane society where the quality of human experience is the criterion... accelerated economic growth is not a goal for which we should make large sacrifices." Lord Layard challenges the orthodoxy; perhaps it's time to rein in the banks and try trickle-up bailouts? btw Richard Layard's 2003 LSE happiness lectures I think were pretty influential in reorienting economics back towards a more 'utility-based' approach in recent years, cf. Giddens on 'third way' politics re: Blair, New Labour and now Brown, viz. "to build tomorrow today..." [more inside]
What does happiness sound like? Maybe Anna knows. Charles Spearin explores. Mrs. Morris - Vanessa [more inside]
Do you remember those days when mom and dad used to pack you up in the back of the station wagon and drive you to grandma's and grandpa's? Or when you were a dreamer with nothing else on your mind but to escape from the one street town to the big city? Have you ever dreamed of going back, maybe to settle down, get in touch with your roots, and start a new life for yourself. Well, here's your chance. Why not just get up and do it this time. Sure, it's not going to be easy, but maybe it's the change you've been looking for. On the other hand, maybe not, so be advised. But whatever you decide, it sure does look like a way of life that does hold a lot of potential. [more inside]
GayHappinessFilter: Early studies on the subject concluded that "heterosexual relationships may have a great deal to learn from homosexual relationships." (pdf) But even so, do gay relationships tend to end sooner? Perhaps, but according to recent research, gay and lesbian couples are just as committed in their relationships as heterosexuals. (pdf) In fact, same-sex couples are actually more satisfied with their relationships, (pdf) and reported more positive feelings toward their partners and less conflict than heterosexual married couples. (Probably just as well, since just because you can be a gay newlywed doesn’t necessarily mean you can be a gay divorcee.) So what’s the secret to gay happiness? Most likely not ”the most satisfying orgasm you can get ... pure sexuality ... almost like pure heroin,” although that’s a heck of an endorsement from a “researcher” who claims to be against it.
In Praise Of Melancholy. We are eradicating a major cultural force, the muse behind much art and poetry and music. We are annihilating melancholia. Does an overemphasis on the pursuit of happiness cause us to miss an essential part of a full life? Via.
How depressing is your job? The Office of Applied Studies, a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, released a report ranking various occupations in order of the number of depressive episodes experienced by workers. "Personal Care & Service" occupations (defined by the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics here) top the list. One wonders if these are the occupations contributing to the growth of the so-called "service economy," and if so, are we heading for a deepening national malaise?
"From a review of the anthropological and evolutionary literatures [Edge.org]... there were three best candidates for being additional psychological foundations of morality [embedded video], beyond harm/care and fairness/justice. These three we label as ingroup/loyalty (which may have evolved from the long history of cross-group or sub-group competition...); authority/respect (which may have evolved from the long history of primate hierarchy, modified by cultural limitations on power and bullying...), and purity/sanctity, which may be a much more recent system, growing out of the uniquely human emotion of disgust, which seems to give people feelings that some ways of living and acting are higher, more noble, and less carnal than others. [more inside]
The International Disaster Database provides a complete summary of natural and technological disasters from 1900 to 2006. You can see disaster summaries by country or by disaster, such as volcanoes, industrial accidents, transportation accidents, or floods, along with even more detailed data. If this is too much, the tonic is the World Database on Happiness which will allow you to look at happiness trends among countries and happiness maps [prev.].
The Happy Planet Index presents an alternative to GDP for measuring standard of living. It ranks countries by measuring life expectancy and self-reported life satisfaction against an "ecological footprint" needed to support that country's lifestyle. The press release claims that well-being is not based on high levels of consumption, but many don't agree. Full report in PDF here. Vanuatu tops the charts, while Zimbabwe and Swaziland lie at bottom. Critiques here, here, here, and here. A critique of happiness indices generally here.
Remember When We Used To Have Fun? A look into the causes of modern unhappiness by Barbara Ehrenreich, author of "Nickel and Dimed."
Three small classes of high school students, one in Watsonville, California, one in Jos, Nigeria, and one in Dharamsala, India, are currently collaborating on "Project Happiness". The students are "exchanging their thoughts about what happiness is, and how to behave in ways that promote happiness all around them," drawing on the Dalai Lama's Ethics for the New Millennium (useful 50-page pdf study guide; positive review from Christian Century magazine). In their work creating a curriculum for the book, the students communicate via email, a blog, and videos (an instructor in India describes the project's focus; a "what life is like here" video from India). The podcast section of the official site currently features just one introductory video posted a few weeks ago. The project will culminate in a meeting of all three classes in March 2007 in Dharamsala. A book and a PBS documentary are planned.
Program Yourself (Youtube link. Quicktime version) is one in a series of a music videos by Pete Moraites. Other movies in the series include Twitterpation (QT), Ragnarok-n-Roll (QT), and Linetwine (QT).
Danes top world happiness ranking. "Piecing together information from more than 100 studies in the growing field of happiness research, a British psychologist has produced what he says is the first world map of happiness." The study ranks each country based on it's SWL (Satisfaction with Life, calculated from data published by the New Economics Foundation) and contrasts it with statistics such as Life Expectancy, GDP per capita and the level of Access to Education.
A reference point; a relative state of mind to which we compare other emotions. Being happy is one of our ultimate goals.
Happiness [pdf] A financial analysis.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Author of the excellent book "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience" which investigates the phenomenon of the happiness of doing, how the balance between stress/anxiety and slack/boredom effect experience and happiness, and how we can all use it to our advantage.
The happiness poll results are in and to no one's surprise, rich people are happier than poor people. Also, Republicans are happier than Democrats.
Reasons to be Cheerful : (mostly PDFs) You earn less than I do. I live in Malta. I am not single. I pay high tax rates. I believe in God. I don't watch TV. Abortion is legal where I live. And other lessons from the new science of
hippiness happiness. (Sort of mentioned here.)
Ye Olde Graphics Shoppe. We hope you will find something here to your liking. You will notice some changes and additions and a new look. We have decided to simplify things rather than have nonsense pages.....too many really :-)) We have a NEW Graphics Assistant Lady Belle ho has added some terrific new dusting graphics and page sets for you to enjoy.
How happy are you? Today's NYT has a great article on alternate methods of analyzing the overall well-being of a country, focusing on Bhutan, the largely Buddhist country whose king put forth an alternative to the capitalist-centric Gross Domestic Product: Gross National Happiness. Not only does it fit in with Buddhist ideals, but organizations like the World Values Survey have come to some (not-so) surprising findings regarding the correlation between wealth and happiness. There are similar movements cropping up around the world, such as Australia's Genuine Progress Indicator, which attempts to quantify non-material progress rather than rely on subjective interpretations of happiness. How do you measure your own happiness?
AH, IS THIS NOT HAPPINESS "Chin Shengt’an was a 17th century playwright who once found himself stranded with a friend in a temple for ten days because of a rainstorm. While thus secluded, the pair compiled a list of the truly happy moments in life. The wonderful thing about Chin’s Happy Moments is their lack of piety. Material pleasures are not rejected in favour of loftier ones." Lovely elegant idea. If you need an antidote be sure to also look at Crap Jobs and Crap Holidays.
Happy Happy (both pdf) The burgeoning field of happiness studies is unearthing all sorts of interesting findings, many of them summarized in these two articles by University of British Columbia economist & "Professor of Happiness" John Helliwell. Rich countries are not happier than poor countries; people tend to revert to the mean after a happy event; money has only a modest effect on happiness; and, hey, good news! you get happier as you get older.
"You can be happy. You can live the life you want to live. You can become the person you want to be. This is what I've figured out so far."
The Gross International Happiness Project. An idea inspired by Gross National Happiness, the Kingdom of Bhutan's alternative to GDP.
Reasons To Be Cheerful: Go on, give us one. If a curmudgeonly, pessimistic, reactionary old prison doctor like Theodore Dalyrymple can do it, so can we. It's a great little article, btw, but its title is even better. The late, great, crippled Ian Dury sang about them and comedian Dave Gorman built an Edinburgh Festival show around it. So be a sport and let us have one good reason of your own - preferably to do with something ahead of us or just now coming into its own or still stubbornly with us, despite the pricks and kicks. No nostalgia allowed! [It's the holidays, after all. Cynicism is for the rest of the year. I greedily bag AskMetaFilter, thank you very much.]
ENJOY KIMONO PHOTO ALBUM Enjoy wearing kimono freely!
The Futile Pursuit of Happiness. ''Things that happen to you or that you buy or own -- as much as you think they make a difference to your happiness, you're wrong by a certain amount. You're overestimating how much of a difference they make. None of them make the difference you think. And that's true of positive and negative events.''
The one-eyed demon. In 1999 Bhutan, one of the most isolated countries in the world (Bhutan seems to have been the model för Shangri-la in James Hilton's "Lost Horizon"), became the last country in the world to adopt television. The king of Bhutan wasn't much interested in gross national product, but in his own concept "gross national happiness" and he believed that TV would increase his nation's happiness. Since then, Bhutan has experienced a crime wave unlike anything the country has previously known. This article tells the story and claims that TV breeds crime. But the questions raised by this story are wider than that: what is it that makes our Western TV-Coke-advertisement-culture totally irresistible? Why do people instantly feel they want it when they see it? Why hasn't any nation looked at the junk we have to offer, laughed at us and walked away?
Buddhism tames the amygdala Covered recently on Metafilter (here), new research at the University of California San Francisco Medical Centre ( into the "Happy Buddhist" phenomenon ) shows that Buddhist meditation techniques "can tame the amygdala, an area of the brain which is the hub of fear memory." [BBC] -Is this the Rx for a nation of Americans gripped by fear? Do Christianity, Islam or Judaism have effective techniques to tame the amygdala too?