Description: How happy are you? If you are not as happy as you would like to be what can you do to fix that? Is how happy you are an important question? If not, what else should we be thinking about or working on? These questions started out simple and then got fuzzier and more complex. Why is that and why, given all the research that has been done on happiness (it is a HUGE part of the work done withing Positive Psychology, for example), are we not all very clear on what happiness is, how much we have, how much we need and how to get what we need? Important questions! Think for a moment about why they are so hard to answer and then have a read through the article linked below which works through this quite long and complicated terrain. It is tough going at time but then, happiness is worth it, right?
Source: We cracked the happiness code. Why are humans still a mess? Tom Rachman, The Globe and Mail.
Date: January 6, 2023
SO, what did you think and make of the brief history if the philosophy and research into happiness? It IS complicated, and existentially uncertain? Can we actually want or hope for or seek happiness in life? Some say no and some say that is the wrong way to think about it all. Nobel prize winning cognitive psychologist Daniel Kahneman gave up on the study of happiness when he found that we tell ourselves (and anyone who will listen) stories about our experiences that may not line up with the experiences we had. So do we want positive experiences or just the opportunity to provide happy narratives of the experiences we might or might not have had? If you know about it, does that not sound somewhat like the reason behavioral theorists gave for psychology needing to give up ‘arm-chair theorizing’ and subjective self-reports of psychological functioning as unscientific? As was suggested in the article human wellbeing (of which happiness is a simplistic form) is not something you can yoga yourself into. But perhaps, as the article’s author suggests, “we might improve society, our jobs, ourselves.” I would add, with the help of some how-to-do-so research; a challenge to positive psychologists!
Questions for Discussion:
- Does tracking how happy you are on a day-to-day basis make sense?
- Is trying to be happy a good, useful or even possible thing to strive towards?
- How should we be thinking about and working on questions about the role of happiness in our lives these days?
References (Read Further):
Gallup (2022) Gallup Global Emotions. Link
Unhappiness is soaring around the world, laments Jon Clifton (2022) The Economist. Link
The World Happiness Report (2022) Link
Helliwell, J. F., Huang, H., Wang, S., & Norton, M. (2020). Social environments for world happiness. World happiness report 2020, 1, 13-45. Link
Ford, B. Q., Shallcross, A. J., Mauss, I. B., Floerke, V. A., & Gruber, J. (2014). Desperately seeking happiness: Valuing happiness is associated with symptoms and diagnosis of depression. Journal of social and clinical psychology, 33(10), 890. Link
Kahneman, Daniel (2010) The riddle of experience vs. memory, a TED talk. Link
Ward, G. (2019). Happiness and voting behaviour. World Happiness Report 2019, 46-65. Link
Twenge, Jean (2019) The Sad State of Happiness in the United States and the Role of Digital Media, Chapter 5, World Happiness Report. Link
Roser, Max (2022) The world is awful. The world is much better. The world can be much better. Our World in Data, Link
Bond, T. N., & Lang, K. (2019). The sad truth about happiness scales. Journal of Political Economy, 127(4), 1629-1640. Link
Aknin, L. B., Dunn, E. W., Proulx, J., Lok, I., & Norton, M. I. (2020). Does spending money on others promote happiness?: A registered replication report. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 119(2), e15. Link