Happiness Myths

There was an interesting op-ed in the Sunday New York Times discussing happiness. Now there’s a topic that everyone can relate to and would like to hear more about. What do you know about what happiness is and what makes one happy? You may be very surprised by what the research says.

There is a test that measure both happiness and unhappiness called the Positive Affectivity and negative Affectivity Schedule test. Not only does it measure both- it demonstrates that a person can be happy, yet unhappy at the same time. This may clear up the confusion for a number of people who have experienced this, but didn’t trust that their self-observations were accurate. Knowing this could also help folks to use their happiness to decrease their unhappiness.

Depending on the individual, there can be a number of stated reasons for unhappiness, but they vary quite a bit and aren’t always significant like living in poverty, having a chronic health issue, or experiencing a significant loss. Actually the number one typical day reason cited for unhappiness is spending time with one’s boss. Take note all you managers. Yes the above cited reasons lead to unhappiness as does loneliness, which is more common in our present culture and especially among those who live alone and/or in large cities.

A surprising finding from a study out of the University of Rochester in 2009 is that graduates who had set “intrinsic’ goals, such as finding a lasting relationship were much happier than those whose goals had to do with making a lot of money or achieving fame. Apparently being rich and/or famous does not make one happier, even if having financial security does contribute to greater happiness for the average person. Yet many people continue to pursue their career goals above all else and put their focus on gaining fame and fortune. How ironic that it can leave them feeling alone, depressed and empty. Think about all the celebrities and politicians embroiled in scandals, in legal trouble due to bad behavior, addicted to substances- and even suicidal.

Of course, there’s always the rest of us. All us normal people who go on reality shows hoping to get noticed, who buy lottery tickets hoping to win the prize that will change our lives for the better and all the folks who put their relationship goals and relationships on hold until they have achieved the right amount of fortune and success.

So what’s the real secret of happiness? Most likely a mixture of security and stability, happy love, close and caring friends, work we love- and the ability to put people and relationships above things and success.

Certainly gives us all something to think about.