Happy Tracks in the Snow

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Happiness January 25, 2008

Filed under: General — paulabrown @ 9:29 am

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You may have read in the papers this week that Dr Arnall of the University of Cardiff devised a way of calculating the most depressing day of the year using 7 variables significant to our feelings of wellbeing:

  1. weather
  2. debt
  3. monthly salary
  4. time since Christmas
  5. time since failed quit event (about setting unreasonble goals then feeling awful for failing)
  6. motivational levels and
  7. need to take action.

He calculated the point at which they all coincided and it was January 24th, so luckily it’s over and done with and we can move on.

I’ve recently re-read a book called Happiness, Lessons from a New Science which basically tries to answer questions about what makes us happy from a largely economic point of view but also looking at philosophy as well (with Jeremy Bentham featuring highly).

Anyway the nub of it all is that while poverty should not be glamorised, once we reach a certain level of income (and not that much), studies show that our happiness plateaus and even decreases with very high levels of income. It all makes sense really. In Bhutan, instead of measuring GDP (which they point out would be quite depressing) they measure levels of happiness to measure progress. He then goes on to propose higher taxes because it would discourage working long hours and spread the happiness around. Aaah.

These are the 7 (oh it’s an auspicious number that number 7, as the Chinese will tell you) major factors affecting happiness:

  1. family relationships (particularly marital status and quality of the relationship)
  2. financial situation (remembering that it seems you don’t have to be too much past the breadline before happiness levels increase markedly)
  3. work (preferably meaningful and where you can see your value)
  4. community and friends (involvement in groups, closeness to friends)
  5. health
  6. personal freedom
  7. personal values (including religion or subscription to a philosophy or spiritual system)

He invites us to consider how we would rate ourselves from 1-5 on the above and qualifies that you by no means have to have all of these factors going on for you as this is unlikely. And don’t forget, as Lisa Simpson always said “as intelligence goes up, happiness often goes down

How would you score?

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