Please see selected recent happiness-related change.
- Asking whether some people are destined to be unhappy, Big Think concluded that people who have more genetic plasticity - meaning they are more sensitive to the environment and hence have an increased capacity for change - may be better able than others to enhance their wellbeing and perhaps even thrive if they adopt a healthy lifestyle and choose to live and work in an environment that enhances their happiness and ability to grow. But genetics does not determine who we are, even if it does play a significant role in our wellbeing. What also matters are the choices we make about where we live, who we live with and how we live our lives.
- Big think noted that the idea that work, or putting effort into tasks, contributes to our general wellbeing is closely related to the psychological concept of eudaimonic happiness. This is the sort of happiness that we derive from optimal functioning and realising our potential. Research has shown that work and effort is central to eudaimonic happiness, explaining that satisfaction and pride you feel on completing a gruelling task.
- Recent research suggested that acting unhappily is a likely way to actually become dissatisfied with life. By saying you’re unhappy, you can talk yourself out of joy and right into gloom, which won’t do anything to ease others’ suffering. What will help is striving to achieve and project happiness even while showing your concerns about wrongs to be righted in the world. In fact, your happiness will make you more effective in making the world a better place.
- We should understand happiness as a path, not a destination, as the result of permanent exercise and not as a goal that we will ever achieve, according to IE University president Santiago Iniguez, describing the thinking of philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. To stay in a given situation, to maintain a personal relationship or to persist in a balanced state of mind, we need to keep making an effort.
- For the fourth year in a row, Finland beat all others in the World Happiness Report, per data from the Gallup World Poll. Despite the pandemic, top-performing countries were similar to 2019-20, which a contributor to the report attributed to solidarity in seeing "COVID-19 as a common, outside threat affecting everybody." The report takes into account GDP, life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom and perceptions of corruption.
- A happy worker is a productive worker, goes the maxim. But by 2020, noted Raconteur an increase in wages didn't necessarily equal greater happiness or output, posited the chairman and chief executive of Frank Recruitment Group, who pointed to recent Betterup research which showed nine out of 10 people are willing to earn less money to do more meaningful work.
- Joy and happiness are often used synonymously, but designer Ingrid Fetell Lee argues that there is an important distinction between the two: time. Happiness is something that measures how good we feel over time, while joy is about feeling good in the moment. Noticing visual and sensorial patterns in the things that brought people joy, Lee identifies 10 "aesthetics": abundance, harmony, energy, freedom, play, surprise, transcendence, magic, renewal, and celebration and believes focusing on joyful moments is the key to getting the most out of life.
- A paper based on data compiled by Gallup, and which covered nearly 1.9m employees across 230 separate organisations in 73 countries, measured four potential measures of corporate performance: customer loyalty, employee productivity, profitability and staff turnover. It found that employee satisfaction had a substantial positive correlation with customer loyalty and a negative link with staff turnover. Furthermore, worker satisfaction was correlated with higher productivity and profitability. The authors also cited studies of changes within individual firms and organisations which seem to show that improvements in employee morale precede gains in productivity, rather than the other way round, leading The Economist to conclude that employee happiness and business success are linked.
- The eminent happiness researcher Richard Layard examined what makes an employee happy at work. His conclusion: it’s the same things that make people happy in their lives: a sense of belonging, social connections, and a purpose or meaning.
- The 2019 World Happiness Report, conducted by Gallup, uses a three-year rolling average of survey responses around six factors: GDP per capita; social support; life expectancy; freedom to make life choices; generosity; and corruption levels. Top-ranked country Finland scored well on all factors but particularly strongly on generosity. The authors say that helping others makes you feel better, but only if you choose to do it. Almost half of Finns donate regularly to charity and almost a third said they had given up time to volunteer for a charity in the previous month.
- The Copenhagen-based Happiness Research Institute pointed out that Finland tops the happiness list despite not having the highest GDP of the Nordic countries. It is the country’s social safety net combined with personal freedom and a good work-life balance that gives it the edge. The OECD’s Better Life Index added hat Finland’s sense of wellbeing may also be down to a feeling of personal safety in a troubled world. Finns feel good about their environment, sense of community and public services and education, but they worry about jobs and housing.
- People around the world are becoming more angry, stressed and worried. Of some 150,000 people interviewed in over 140 countries, a third in 2019 said they suffered stress, while at least one in five experienced sadness or anger.The annual Gallup Global Emotions Report asked people about their positive and negative experiences. The most negative country was Chad (where seven out of 10 people struggled to find food), followed by Niger. The most positive country was Paraguay.
- The School of Life is wary of the work happiness, preferring a term used by the Ancient Greeks: Eudaimonia, most commonly translated as ‘fulfilment’. What distinguishes happiness from fulfilment is pain. It is eminently possible to be fulfilled whilst experiencing our daily helping of sadness, discomfort, and suffering.
- Since 2005 Gallup has asked adults from around the world to rate their life satisfaction. In general, the richer the country, the higher the level of self-reported happiness. But the prediction that as a country gets richer its mood will improve has a dubious record, noted The Economist. Although economic downturns are reliable sources of temporary misery, long-term GDP growth does not seem to be enough to makes people happier.
- Given how much we all long to be happy, we might presume that accepting the possibility of happiness in our lives would be an uncomplicated, serene and automatic process. But for many, however theoretically attached we might be to the notion of being happy, the possibility of actually being so is liable to trigger deep ambivalence and fear. We would - it appears - often prefer to be worried and sad, argued The School of Life.
- Some research suggests that people’s unhappiness lies in overly high expectations and too little practice struggling with obstacles early on. Others, meanwhile, blames devotion to work and the fact that people have replaced traditional religious and family values with careers and callings as the source of meaning in their lives.
- In Workism Is Making Americans Miserable, The Atlantic claimed that for the college-educated elite, work has morphed into a religious identity- promising identity, transcendence, and community, but failing to deliver. Rich, college-educated people—especially men—work more than they did many decades ago. They are reared from their teenage years to make their passion their career and, if they don’t have a calling, told not to yield until they find one.
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- According to Pew, between 1980-2015, desk jobs increased 94% while physical labour only went up 12% While there is value in any form of engaging work, the loss of working with our hands means we no longer engage with our environment, perhaps a key reason why anxiety and stress rates are skyrocketing. Working with our hands affects brain chemistry in a positive way, while automation technologies can strip away a sense of agency and meaning in our lives, warned Big Think.
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- Perhaps some people don’t really want to be happy. A Nobel laureate says satisfaction is what most people actually want, and it’s entirely distinct from happiness.
- In What Kind of Happiness Do People Value Most?, Harvard Business Review reported on a series of studies, recently published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, which directly asked thousands of people (ages 18 to 81) about their preference between experienced and remembered happiness. It found that people’s preferences differed according to the length of time they were considering - and according to their culture. For Westerners, the happiness most people said they wanted for the next day was different from the happiness they said they wanted for their lifetime, even though one’s days add up to one’s life.
- Why the long face? Why does sadness inspire great art when happiness cannot? examined how sadness can make people seem nobler, more elegant, more adult. Which is pretty weird, when you think about it, noted Aeon, asking what it is it about sadness that often gets the creative juices flowing.
- Having money won’t make you happier – but spending it might, according to getabstract, arguing that the right spending habits can produce measurable changes in your physical and emotional well-being. In Happy Money, Elizabeth Dunn, an associate professor of psychology, and Michael Norton, an associate professor of marketing, distilled their findings into the five principles of “smart spending.” Among their tips: don’t buy stuff; buy experiences, as one may get more happiness out of a trip overseas or a visit to a museum through connecting with other people and accumulate memories.
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- More people are living longer these days - but what can we do to ensure that our added years are happy ones, asked Quartz? The answer, according to one researcher, lies in intergenerational friendships. While contemporary culture conspires to keep the young and old segregated from one another, initiatives in places like Singapore and London are creating opportunities for them to connect over shared meals, reading lessons, and dance parties.
- Russians have become happier, according to The Economist. Healthier living is replacing alcohol and curbing the country’s male suicide rate.
- Workers of all ages, genders, and regions say that happiness is the most important factor in their dream job, followed by purpose, work-life harmony, and money.
- Since 2010, the UK government has been tracking national well-being, by surveying citizens on four questions about how happy, satisfied and anxious they are, and how worthwhile they feel their life is. However, for Prospect, the fundamental problem here is that all the measures are quantitative, ranking how you feel on a one-to-10 scale, whereas the most important variations are qualitative. We can and should measure the things that generally help us live better - access to education, healthcare, a basic income and so on. But once our material needs are met, what makes life go better or worse is too varied, too personal, too indefinable to be meaningfully measured.
- 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, had unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction.
- Medical research suggests that happiness certainly can reduce the risk of heart problems, reported Raconteur. People with a positive outlook, who experience joy, happiness, excitement and contentment in their lives, are less likely to suffer heart disease, according to researchers from Harvard School of Public Health.They set out to examine the association between positive psychological wellbeing and cardiovascular disease, conducting a systemic review of all relevant existing research.
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- Philosophers have contemplated the nature of happiness for millennia, psychologists have attempted to unearth its existential building blocks and delineate its stages. And yet at the heart of it remains a mystery - wildly various across lives and within any one life, claimed Brain Pickings, pointing to Walt Whitman's reflections on the wisdom of trees, the singular power of music, how art imbues even the bleakest moments with beauty, and what makes life worth living.
- Brain Pickings also suggests that we consider definitions of happiness, as well as obstacles to it, before revisiting Whitman on how to live a vibrant and rewarding life.
- The government of Delhi added a new subject to the school curriculum in the hope that it will transform the educational outcomes of children - happiness. Pupils from pre-primary age up to 14 years old are receiving daily lessons in happiness, which include yoga and meditation and teaching children to take pride in their work. The classes start with mindfulness, followed by stories and activities. While there won’t be any exams associated with the new subject, teachers will make periodic assessments of children’s progress using a “Happiness Index”.
- Worabel is Korean shorthand slang for ‘work-life balance’. South Koreans famously put in some of the longest working hours on the planet; according to the OECD more than 20% of workers exceed 50 hours a week. And the average employee barely takes half of their leave days. The resulting stress, noted the BBC, contributes to a nation with a shockingly high number of suicides. It is also a factor in the country’s record low birth rate, as working mothers also carry the bulk of parenting responsibilities. The government’s solution for this pile-up of problems: make everyone happier.
- A team at the University of Sheffield in the UK claimed that the more time children spend online the less happy they are about their school, their appearance, their family and their life in general. Spending just sixty minutes per day on social media reduced happiness by 14% according to the study.
- Schools in India are offering happiness classes. Courses in meditation and personal well-being aim to bolster mental health.
- How happy are people today? Were people happier in the past? How satisfied with their lives are people in different societies? And how do our living conditions affect all of this? Big questions, which Our World in Data has now tried to answer empirically.
Happiness is subjective, argued Quartz, noting for example that married couples have competing accounts of how much time they spend together, or how many arguments they have?.One of the few constant findings in marriage research is that spouses tend to view the same relationship quite differently. Married spouses often give researchers contrasting reports on virtually everything: how the chores are shared, how often they have sex, and even how much money they earn. But, Quartz found, taken together, data paints a picture of lasting marriage as a long process of letting go of conflict and learning how to be together.
- A much-discussed article for The Atlantic, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation,” charts accelerating social collapse. Teenagers are suddenly less likely to date, less likely to leave the home without their parents, more likely to put off the activities of adulthood. They are spending more time alone with their digital screens, and the greater the screen time, the greater the unhappiness. Eighth graders who are heavy users of social media are 27 percent more likely to be depressed.
- The UK town of Rochdale is currently experimenting with the Rochdale feelgood index, a machine learning system that gauges the happiness of residents in real-time, using tweets sent in the city. The feelgood index is less expensive and time-consuming than traditional polls to measure happiness and wellbeing. Rochdale officials hope to use the index to help identify possible improvements in public services, as well as to study whether less affluent areas of Rochdale experience chronically lower levels of wellbeing.
- In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle proposed that humans are social, rational animals that seek to “live well". To that end, he proposed a system of ethics designed to help us reach eudaimonia, a world that means living well or flourishing. Eudaimonia is reached by living virtuously and building up your character traits until you don’t even have to think about your choices before making the right one.
- The Frankfurt School theorists Max Horkheimer and Theodor W Adorno called ‘the culture industry’ the way that Hegel’s ‘unhappy consciousness’ had been masked by the pleasures of mass culture and consumption, preventing its victims from feeling the pangs of their true condition.
- Finns aren’t happy about their reputation for being happy. The country’s top ranking in the World Happiness Report was met with scepticism at home, claimed Quartz.
- Analysis in The Atlantic showed that 1) Generally speaking, richer countries are happier countries. But since many of these rich countries share other traits -- they're mostly democracies with strong property rights traditions, for example -- some studies suggest that it's our institutions that are making us happy, not just the wealth. 2) Generally speaking, richer people are happier people. But young people and the elderly appear less influenced by having more money. 3) But money has diminishing returns - like just about everything else. Satisfaction rises with income until about $75,000 (or perhaps as high as $120,000). After that, researchers have had trouble proving that more money makes that much of a difference.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- Over many years journalist Oliver Burkeman travelled to some of the strangest corners of the 'happiness industry' in an attempt to find out; he subsequently recounted his findings to an RSA audience. From stress, procrastination and insomnia, to laughter, creativity and wealth, Burkeman suggested how we might imagine achieving a more realistic goal - i.e. becoming slightly happier.
- Can we also imagine how we might become better parents, partners, colleagues, citizens...by not looking for happiness for our own sakes, but instead through helping others?
- Meanwhile, while per capital income has more than doubled in the US since 1972, subjective measures of well-being, like happiness, remain unchanged, according to the UN’s 2018 World Happiness Report. Health crises - from opioids to obesity - haven’t helped. Indeed there is even now a "misery index", a crude economic measure that adds together a country's unemployment and inflation rate.
- Gross National Happiness, written into Bhutan's constitution, which emphasises the importance of Gross National Happiness over Gross Domestic Product, stipulated the country must have at least 60 percent forest cover.