Can we imagine how we might all become just slightly happier, rather than trying to solve the insoluble - i.e. the perennial problem of human happiness and fulfilment?
Becoming happier is a subject that has occupied some of history's greatest thinkers, but how do we sort the good ideas from the bad? Are there any hard and fast rules when it comes to happiness, and should we trust anyone who claims to know the secret?
Recent studies suggest that one common factor can be found in the "happiest" 10% of people: the strength of their social relationships. Psychological research also seems to show that, as people get older, they generally become happier, more content, and have a more positive outlook on the world.
Meanwhile, at the societal level, tools like The Happy Planet Index (see video below) measure the happiness of countries in relation to the amount of resources each one uses, while the Mappiness (see image) app beeps users once (or more) a day to ask how they're feeling, and a few basic things to control for: who they're with, where they are and what they're doing, and builds from this a barometer of societal mood.
What keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life? Psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, the director of a 75-year-old study on adult development, has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction.
While true happiness may have a different definition to each of us, some claim that science can give us a glimpse at the underlying biological factors behind happiness. From the food we eat to room temperature, there are thousands of factors that play a role in how our brains work and the moods that we are in.
Unhappiness is more pervasive and debilitating than happiness is uplifting and enabling. There must be some cosmic reason for this- some grim, miserable, genetic, Darwinian purpose for why life’s stick is so much worse than its carrot - AA Gill http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/food_and_drink/eating_o…
The individual pursuit of happiness as defined by consumer culture still absorbs much of our time and energy, or else the threat of being shut out of this pursuit through poverty, unemployment, incapacity galvanises our efforts . . . and yet the sense that there is something more presses in. Great numbers of people feel it: in moments of reflection about their life- in moments of relaxation in nature- in moments of bereavement and loss- and quite wildly and unpredictably - Charles Taylor
You are forgiven for your happiness and your successes only if you generously consent to share them - Albert Camus