Wednesday, September 16, 2009
What makes you Happy?
Joshua Wolf Shenk has written an article entitled "What makes us happy". http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200906/happiness 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".