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.
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.