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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

instructions for building the 8th matrix

So what do you have to do to find happiness? Perversely, happiness has a negative image in our culture. Influenced by a sceptical European philosophical outlook, we think of happiness as a trivial pursuit for the Oprah generation, a Shangri-La perpetuated by self-help gurus. Isn't it selfish to try to increase our happiness, while much of the world faces suffering and premature death? Can scientists tell us what happiness is?

Economists accept that if people describe themselves as happy, then they are happy. However, psychologists differentiate between levels of happiness. The most immediate type involves a feeling; pleasure or joy. But sometimes happiness is a judgment that life is satisfying, and does not imply an emotional state.

Public surveys measure what makes us happy. Marriage does, pets do, but children don't seem to (despite what we think). Youth and old age are the happiest times. Money does not add much to happiness; in Britain, incomes have trebled since 1950, but happiness has not increased at all. The happiness of lottery winners returns to former levels within a year. People disabled in an accident are likely to become almost as happy again. For happiness levels are probably genetic: identical twins are usually equally bubbly or grumpy.

via Times Online

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