Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence. -Aristotle
I think what we all really want is to be happy, right? We go to college to get the right job we want to have the life style we want so we can be happy. We get married because we think that’ll make us happy. We work long hours to get promoted because we think that’ll make us happy. We have kids and treat them well because that makes us happy. We do all of these things to make ourselves happy. The U.S. is the richest country in the world. So, why isn’t the U.S. also the happiest country in the world? According to TheHappinessShow.com with reference to: A CROSS-CULTURAL SOURCEBOOK BASED ON THE 1999-2002 VALUES SURVEYS (Mexico City: Siglo XXI, 2004), the U.S. is only the 15th happiest country as shown below.
1. Puerto Rico
7. N. Ireland
12. El Salvador
17. New Zealand
24. W. Germany
37. E. Germany
40. Czech Rep
41. S. Africa
47. S. Korea
*Note that not all countries in the world were included in the survey*
According to GNN, “Government policies that promote economic growth, while shortchanging workers on things like vacation time, family time and health insurance, will not produce happy citizens. Since World War II, the per capita income in the U.S. has tripled, but life satisfaction has stayed the same. The same thing has happened in Japan and Western Europe. One reason may be that a rising economy, and the aggressive advertising that accompanies it, makes people desire even more things; therefore, they remain discontented.”
Jason Zwieg in Your Money and Your Brain found that rich are indeed not happier than those of us fortunate enough to be above the poverty line. When a study was conducted from various groups on a scale of 1 (not at all happy) to 7 (extremely happy), the results were striking. Jason points out that on “average, members of the Maasai ethnic group who herd livestock on the arid high plains of Kenya and Tanzania, score 5.7 on this scale. The Inuit, who live in the frigid wilds of northern Greenland, average 5.8. The Amish, with their antiquated rural lifestyle, also score 5.8. When members of the Forbes 400, the famed “Rich List” of the wealthiest people in America took a similar test, their average response was 5.8.”
So, if money doesn’t determine happiness, then what?
Sonja Lyubomirsky in her book The How of Happiness, suggests
1. 50% of happiness can be accounted for by their genetic set point
2. 10% of happiness is explained by the difference in life circumstances or situations (i.e. whether we are rich or poor, healthy or unhealthy, beautiful or plain, married or divorced.)
3. 40% of happiness is determined by our behavior
Now, think about what Sonja has put together. Of the amount of happiness we hope to achieve, we can increase or decrease our happiness by 40% if we decide to be happy. I’ve always had that thought, but Sonja really does a nice job of putting all together. The part I like about her research is that she backs everything up with references.
What are some of your thoughts?
Photo by SpiritHands.net
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