Monday, May 12, 2014

When Are We Happy?

(Tune in while reading:
Every person has different answers for this simple question. But we don't know an exact answer for what makes us happy for what reasons. There are more questions that human kind has been trying to find an answer for like whether being happy is what people seek in life.
The word "happy" is itself very ambiguous. People can describe them happy in two different ways:
-depending on their mental state at the moment; reflecting short term condition
-depending on whether they are living lives they want; reflecting long term condition
Regarding the first sense of the term "happy", there have been studies and recommendations trying to find out in what condition people feel happiness. In an episode of the TED Radio Hour Show, guest speakers talked about their findings on being happy. Harvard PhD student Matt Killingsworth conducted survey based research on happiness, and his result shows that if we want to be happier, we should live at the exact current moment. In other words, according to his smart-phone app based survey, people in the study answered they are happy when their minds were focused on what they were doing at the exact moment. On the other hand, people answered that they are happy less times when their minds were on something else such as what they are going to do after they finish their current tasks. Simply put, if you want to be happier, enjoy the moment!
Also, on the same show episode, Carl Honore, an author, advises us to slow down our speed of lives to be happier. He argues that today, people speed in their most tasks, and this leads to less happiness, less productivity and less quality of life. Another speaker Graham Hill, a designer, talk about how we are happier when we have less stuff in life! More elaborately, his point is that we are happy when we have simpler stuff in life.
If we can be happier by following above advises, how can we be happier in our whole lives, in general? Even though I don't want to say this, most people feel pressure and unhappiness by choosing to compare themselves with others. We make ourselves unhappy by envying others. In other words, people choose to be less happy because of other's fortune, luck and possession. This tendency to compare ourselves with others come just naturally to us. However, people should try to control their happiness by what they possess instead of what others possess.
Also, in addition to comparing what we have with what others have, we seemingly compare what we have with what we thought what we would have. In other words, in some sense, we feel happy whenever we experience somewhat unexpected pleasure giving events. Then again even though I don't want to say this, we should lower our expectations in life to be happier. Maybe we can expect the worst and hope for the best!
Happiness has been a topic of economic researches for decades. Richard Easterlin's study on human's well being during 1970's has greatly shaped following studies by economists. His main finding, later called Easterling Paradox, was that well-being and happiness are greatly correlated with people's income, but until income reaches certain point. The latest research on happiness done by University of Michigan professor Justin Wolfers shows how economic and demographic factors play a role in being happy. Even though I don't believe the title is appropriately given, an article "Money can buy happiness, economist says" pinpoints results of his study. Here are some interesting ones:

• Men in recent decades in America are happier than women. “No one knows exactly why,” Wolfers told the audience. It may be that women have internalized several measures of success, more than the basic “am I popular” focus young women faced growing up in the 1960s, he said.
• In general, not only are the rich happier than the poor, but globally, richer nations are happier than poorer ones, Wolfers noted.
• Among Americans in the lowest 12 percent of income-earners, 21 percent said they were happy. Of those earning more than $150,000 per year (the top 10 percent), 53 percent said they were happy.
Flipping the question, among the lowest-earning 12 percent, 26 percent said they were unhappy in general, based on a set of factors such as enjoyment of meals, depression and feeling respected. Of the top 10 percent, only 2 percent reported feeling unhappy, he said.
The notion that riches are happier than poors isn't totally groundbreaking news even it wasn't true. But at the end, most of us seek to get higher salary jobs assuming that it makes us happier. Then from this study, we can advise ourselves that get rich to become happier!