Friday, April 25, 2008

Who is Happier?

It turns out some people are happier than others, at least according to the "Measuring National Happiness" radio show I listened to the other day.


Some people are always walking around with a smile on their faces. Cynical me, I think they're covering something up, compensating for a black hole of sadness inside. But it turns out they may actually be happier.

For example, researchers led by Alan Krueger noted that the general "moment to moment" happiness of men has increased over the past few years, which they attribute to the fact that men are gradually moving away from less pleasant like work to more to neutral activities like watching TV. Women have actually experienced a slight decline in their moment to moment happiness, which the researchers hypothesize is due to the increased stress of working outside the home.

So Frank from accounting may actually be happier than Lorianne, especially if Frank is older than Lorianne, and conservative politically. As you age, you learn to ignore non-constructive negative stimuli. (You can practice doing this with MindHabit's online game.)

It turns out people who are politically conservative are generally happier than people who identify themselves as liberal. Krueger and colleagues attribute this to their understanding that conservatives generally believe they are in control of their lives. They believe they can get ahead - there's nothing stopping them, not genetics, not the economic status of their families, not gender, not nothing, not nobody, not no how. Conservatives generally have rosier world view, and accept how things are.

Contrasting with this, Krueger said his research shows that to a certain degree, liberals tend to not to believe they are in control of their lives and their circumstances. They tend to attribute failure to succeed in society to factors in addition to just "personal initiative." This may be considered a more understanding and forgiving point of view, but Krueger postulates that admitting a certain lack of control over their own lives makes liberals less happy.

One could always argue, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" It is likely that 50% of the difference in happiness is due to other factors - religion and marriage contribute to happiness, and conseratives are more likely to be married and religious.

This isn't to say that in order to be happy, you should start being conservative politically.

Instead, be who you are - and be happy in it. Use your money to buy experiences, not stuff. Eating leads to increased happiness - and so does exercise (so you can happily maintain your waistline). Volunteer. Try to reach equilibrium with your status in life - accept where you are, while working constantly to achieve your next goal. (Incidentally, I noted this was common among people in India, who seemed very happy.)

You too can be happy... and hopefully already are.

Anyone up for a bike ride [exercise] for charity [giving] across Ireland [experience] followed by an organic feast [eating] in a castle [my dream]?

Related Posts: How to be Happier, Bigger and Better, Reflecting on ourselves

I look pretty darned happy here, if I do say so myself.

Photo of the smiling barn courtesy of BachsPics.
Photos of smiling children and jumping girl courtesy of Smazzle, aka me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Omg at first i thought you were serious when you mentioned the bike ride followed by the organic feast....that would be amazing!!!! everything i love in one!