The BBC reports on the new scientific measurements of happiness. They are beginning a six-part series on TV in the U.K. called The Happiness Formula. The series promises to help you find out how happy you are. Nifty plan.
Scientists have felt that the word “happiness” has been too vague and too surrounded by the mythos of cartoon or movie views of “happy people” dancing with pleasure. Now, however, “… neuroscientists are measuring pleasure. They suggest that happiness is more than a vague concept or mood; it is real.”
There is another epiphany, folks. Happiness is real. Pleasure is real. Do not worry that you were missing something when you didn’t hear bells and the earth didn’t shake. You might have been happy anyway.[ADBLOCKHERE]
Now here is the scientific, complex measurement process of which they speak:
Social scientists measure happiness simply by asking people how happy they are.
It is argued that what a person says about their own happiness tends to tally with what friends or even strangers might say about them if asked the same question.
This is the scientific breakthrough the world has waited for. The mad scientist asks, “How happy are you on a scale of 1 to 10?”
“About five”, you say, thinking of great sex, a good movie, and a surly waitress at lunch.
“Aha”, says he/she, “you are a moderately happy person.”
It is scientific and high-tech.
The leading American psychologist Professor Ed Diener from the University of Illinois, told The Happiness Formula that the science of happiness is based on one straightforward idea:
“It may sound silly but we ask people ‘How happy are you 1-7, 1-10?
“And the interesting thing is that produces real answers that are valid, they’re not perfect but they’re valid and they predict all sorts of real things in their lives.”
One type of measurement even tries to record people’s levels of happiness throughout the day wherever they are.
Ecological momentary assessment uses hand held computers.
The person being quizzed is bleeped and then taken through a questionnaire.
They have made amazing new discoveries:
Happy people live longer than depressed people.
Happy people have close friends, they say. (But maybe people with close friends are happier people.)
“Standard of living has increased dramatically and happiness has increased not at all, and in some cases has diminished slightly,” said Professor Daniel Kahneman of the University of Princeton. “There is a lot of evidence that being richer… isn’t making us happier”. I think that someone may have made this discovery somewhat earlier.
Happily, they also note some ways to be happier. We were waiting for this part, weren’t we?
“Look for meaning in your life.”
“Develop deep relationships with family and friends.”
It is even suggested that friendship can ward off germs. Our brains control many of the mechanisms in our bodies which are responsible for disease.
Marriage (I assume a successful one) adds seven years to your life.
Another element is “…having goals embedded in your long term values that you’re working for, but also that you find enjoyable.” I would call that doing what you like and liking what you are doing.
The first episode of The Happiness Formula was shown on BBC Two at 1900 BST on Wednesday.
Another happy place to visit is The World Database of Happiness.
There is an e-zine for those looking for A Daily Dose of Happiness. Google, alone, promises 70,400,000 more citations on the subject of happiness. Be happy. Don’t worry.
Going over to the website of the American Psychological Association and putting “happiness” into their search box yields 107 documents. They are right on it. One article,”Review of Research Challenges Assumption that Success Makes People Happy: Happiness May Lead to Success via Positive Emotions” is indicative and positive.
Personal and professional success may lead to happiness but may also engender success. Happy individuals are predisposed to seek out and undertake new goals in life and this reinforces positive emotions, say researchers who examined the connections between desirable characteristics, life successes and well-being of over 275,000 people…
Get happy, get successful. It is a good outlook.
Just as an aside, the cardiologists’ test, the New York Scale for the severity of angina (chest pain), is based on asking you how bad it hurts on a scale of 1-10. So we see that happiness and pain share some common elements like measurement on these scientific scales.
Don’t worry. Be happy.