Happiness

As promised I wanted to write more here. Now, this weekend in the Financial Times, FT Weekend Magazine August 28/29 2010, there was an article on Happiness. Nick Powdthavee reveals seven surprising new discoveries about happiness. Carl Wilkinson asks some happy people how they manage it. So here is the summary added with some of my thoughts.

Allegedly we overestimate the extend and duration of the emotional impacts of e.g. pay rise or death of a loved one. However what really seems to influence our happiness are things like family and friends. All we need to do is devote more time and energy into it, and we will be happier. But how should that work, where we spend most of the day working hard to earn more money to buy us happiness, like bigger cars, houses and more fun? A vicious cycle.

Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.

What does that mean? Does that mean, similar to Buddhist theories, that the answer for happiness lies within us? Am I on the right track to discover what makes me happy inside me?

1) Money buys you little happiness: I suppose we already knew that. Not only do we spend more time with things we don’t enjoy (normally) that results in more money, hence we are less happy in order to earn more money? Studies show that poor people have a happier life than richer people because they focus on what they have (see above).

There is an interview with a mathematician saying “mathematics can help planning but doesn’t provide with all the answers“. I once met someone who thought that life can be explained by maths. I disagree but I believe that it is easier to comprehend life if you can put it into a formula. Look at great people like Pythagoras.

2) Friends are worth more than a Ferrari – again a disguise of money. Bigger house, bigger car…it is all in relation. How can you ever be content with what you have if you think that you have to have the most expensive item, the bigger item than your neighbour/peer?

3) Winning the lottery won’t make you instantly happy – Ok, I now see a clear pattern of this article. Again, money just let’s us being able to let go of worries like mortgages. If you are ill, have a disabled child and no friends, you are isolated, and money won’t help you change that.

A Likert scale puts values of “getting married” against money gain to compare it of £200,000 – how is that ever going to work. They don’t drill on this scale, but I believe that certain things, like getting married or having a child cannot and shouldn’t be measured in money. What about morale? Why do we have to put everything we do down to a value in money?

4) Losing your job makes you unhappy – but less so when others have too. I suppose if you look at the greater scale of things it damages your ego, but also your finances.

I begin to think that this article in the FT really tries to argue that happiness is not associated with money. However, when I read reason

5) Fat friends make you happier than thin ones, I was wondering. This has to do with comparison: if we think that people we really like are fatter and we compare ourselves to them and think we are better off, it makes us happier. Selfishness comes into play here big time. If someone else can eat, I can and still be slimmer than them.

Sir Tom Hunter who says that being rich makes him feel securer also adds that a positive attitude in life makes people happier, and ultimately achieve more. If you think that your glass is half full rather than half empty, you always will look for positive things and growth. This ultimately makes you achieve more things and you are pleased more with yourself. Makes very much sense to me.

6) Divorce can make you happy – it shows that if marriage fails and you break up, then you will get happier over time after your divorce. Now, this is another bad research if you ask me. If you are unhappy with ANY situation in your life, you would feel better and happier if you change that situation for the better. Common sense, no?

7) Happiness is contagious – happy people like to share their happiness with friends and family, so they ultimately get happier. They are happier, nicer, less hostile and their emotions are much more positive.

So overall an interesting article to evaluate whether you are happy, what you might want to change in your life to become happier.

I am happy: of course a lottery win would give me more security and more choice, but it wouldn’t make me happier. Success in my job, another healthy child, a healthy family will of course make me much much happier.

Nick published a book “The Happiness Equation” – in case you want to try to put it all in an equation?!