Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What makes you Happy?

Joshua Wolf Shenk has written an article entitled "What makes us happy". He is reviewing the Harvard Study of Adult Development. Following Harvard men since 1937 and watching their lives. These were to be a study of 'normal' men. The Grant Study... "central question is not how much or how little trouble these men met, but rather precisely how—and to what effect—they responded to that trouble." There is a great story in the article which leads the researcher, George Vaillant's to look at how people adapt. "...a father who on Christmas Eve puts into one son’s stocking a fine gold watch, and into another son’s, a pile of horse manure. The next morning, the first boy comes to his father and says glumly, “Dad, I just don’t know what I’ll do with this watch. It’s so fragile. It could break.” The other boy runs to him and says, “Daddy! Daddy! Santa left me a pony, if only I can just find it!” You have to love that. Is that the key to happiness? In the end Shenk's article does not give us a the magic template for what makes us happy. I wonder what does make us happy? I am sure that each person has their own definition of happiness. The other thing does happiness have to be a constant state or is it only necessary or possible for brief instances? Happiness in small doses and at certain times.

A good joke or a bad pun will bring some happiness, if only for a brief moment. My friend and I were laughing yesterday about old Bobby (or was it Frankie)and their moment in the Reserve spotlight. Bobby was complaining about people talking about him. I guess rumours were that he and his wife were having problems. He said "I hear there are allegations being made about me! And I want to know who the alligator is!". Wait, that is not as bad as this Maori fellow who was describing an accident to his cousins;"two cars were coming at each other and then there was a head on conclusion". It may not be Seinfeld but it makes for a split second of happiness.

Funny thing about being happy, for some reason we have this need to sabotage it. I always say don't get to happy because something will happen that will make you fall and fall hard. Bang, that little sentiment slams the brakes on being happy. The fear that if you get happy because it's too good to be true. The worry about jinxing your good fortune by saying how good things are out loud. Always waiting for something bad to come along. The proverbial calm before the storm. When something happens that actually challenges our happiness, it is how we defend against it that will affect our long term happiness. I don't know much but experiences do add to our character; how we behave and what we become.

I have friends that are not making big coin and live hand to mouth, but on the surface all is fine. You couldn't find happier people. That is something because much stress in life is due to financial worries. Money doesn't buy happiness but lack of money sure piles on the stress, at least for some people. I am like most people thinking of who I would buy things for, but at the end of the day, my happiness is not linked to cash. Rather it is part experience, part attitude and a bit of luck.

With the Grant Study they are starting to show that wealth (or at least normal wealth) does not mean you are going to end up happy.

Have a good day folks from the "Health and Happiness Show".


  1. Money and possessions are not happiness for the majority of people. I have met some people that unless they have more stuff/money than you, they can never be happy. I thought that was really sad. We are not Rockefellers by any means, but we are happy, now throw in Bill Gate's money, we would be the same people, just with enough money to buy a country! :) Truly it depends on how you were raised, were you raised an honest, good person with simple needs? Then you will never NEED much, other than good friends and family. If you were raised as a money-grubbing sycophant, then all you want or need is money and things, people are tools and steps to your goal. I prefer just needing people.....

  2. I think money is not happiness. Good friends, Health, and a good relationship with a fellow.
    Love reading your so interesting and meaningful posts.

  3. Thought provoking post. Of course money is an essential part of living. We all need it. However... love, acceptance, true friendship. To me, these are essentials for happiness. Things we all desire to have and should all aspire to give.

  4. Thanks you guys for the comments. I like the idea of being with people, relationships, and friendships as ingredients to happiness.
    I am not sure what makes us happy in the big picture, but having a good laugh with your spouse, you mom and dad, your kids and friends is a good start.