Happy now?

May. 20th, 2011 02:53 pm
teadog1425: (Maze)
[personal profile] teadog1425

I came across an interesting article today in the THE (another advantage of working in a university environment!)  The article is: “The Wellbeing of Nations,” by Andrew Oswald (19 May 2011, Times Higher Education, pp 35-39), and he talks about the economics (more exactly, the statistics) of happiness.  Interesting points below…

 

1)       The answers that people give about how happy they are, tend to correlate well with the judgments of their friends, families and partners, as to how happy they think the individual is – which becomes more obvious the more you think about it really!  But still, it does reflect a (perhaps surprising) unanimity of presentation – i.e. that happy people are consistently happy to all those they interact with, and unhappy people vice versa – what about those who put on a jovial face with friends, and torture themselves with depression in private?  Or is that in fact not as effective a disguise as they think, and their friends still code them correctly as unhappy?

 

2)      There is a strong correlation between where you are in your life-cycle and how happy you perceive yourself to be – people in their late teens (15-20) are fairly happy and that score then drops steadily to reach a low for people in their 40s (41-50), after which it rises steeply until it reaches a much greater high for people in their 60s – perhaps because by that point you’re just so pleased to still be around?!  ;)  This means that (if I am typical), I am currently on the downward slide (being in my 30s) with another decade or so to go of feeling dissatisfied with my life, before things start to improve!  I can see why that might be the case – your 30s and 40s are the key decades for you to actually achieve or not the things that you might have wanted to achieve – relationship, property-ownership, career success, kids – there’s a lot of pressure in comparing yourself to a template of what you think you ought to have achieved or to what your peers have achieved, and where there are disappointments, these are often hard to come to terms with.  By the time you’re in your 50s and 60s, you have perhaps adjusted for these, and either have achieved the markers that you considered important, or have adjusted your goals to accept what you actually have…

 

3)      Things that the stats suggest have a high correlation to personal happiness (with comments!):

a.       Being a woman – phew!  ;)

b.      Having lots of friends – I finally feel like I am improving at this, with a much more stable social group and a better balance of people to spend time with vs time spent on my own – having the horse has been a massive factor in this…

c.       Being married or having a steady cohabitation – well, a no for me on this, obviously! – I do wonder whether the steady cohabitation has to be romantic in order to have its effect – what about a group of friends who live together as a steady arrangement?

d.      Having a PhD – This made me laugh out loud!  Hah!  Finally it is good for something!  I certainly don’t think that doing my PhD was good for my happiness, but certainly as I’ve got further away from the trauma, I can see the benefits more and more, so, maybe, yes…  ;)

e.       (and more generally) Having a good education

f.        Having a higher income

g.       Being healthy

 

4)      What the stats suggest as the great negatives in life:

a.       Unemployment

b.       Serious illness

c.       A recent divorce or separation – though, overall, the data suggests that two years after divorce, happiness levels rise again.

 

5)      Whether people have children or not, turns out to not be statistically significant in terms of their personal happiness levels – which is surprising… 

 

6)      I thought this was an interesting quote: “Health matters.  There is a great deal of research done by epidemiologists…to show that there seem to be very deep, powerful links between the quality of your mind – what is going on in your head – and how well your body works.  We do not understand the mechanisms at all well.”  I agree with this, and I’m really interested to see what is uncovered by this research, re the effect of thinking on body functioning…

 

7)      I also felt a real sense of recognition at this: “…in a deep sense, we are animals of comparison.  We cannot help it.  What I want is to have three BMWs and for my friend to have an old Ford.  That is what I want deep down, even though I cannot face up to that fact, and cannot say it to him or admit it to myself.”  Hah!  God, yes.  I keep thinking that the times when I get really stressed about things, are primarily because I am comparing myself to what other people have, and how unhelpful this is…

 

Which, I suppose, begs the question – especially given that I tick a privileged number of the positives on the lists above – do I consider myself happy? 

 

I’ve always felt – even at the points where I was finding life in general pretty hard – that deep inside, however difficult I might find it to access when things are proving tricky, I have an unshakeable core of optimism.  I’m generally a happy person, who has to (and sometimes does – bad brain! no biscuit!) work quite hard to make themselves miserable.  Even in the times that were pretty dark, I got a lot of pleasure from an incredible sunset, or a flower silhouetted just so, or the way a strange cat arched its head under my hand – and I think I’m very lucky that my brain works like that.

 

I’ve also worked really hard over the past five years or so – made a lot of changes to the way I think, to the way I interact with people, to what I spend my time doing – and I am definitely much happier with my life on a day-to-day level than I have been at any time I can remember before.  The majority of this is down to the pleasure that I get from being around animals, and horses in particular, which I have made a much larger part of my life, and most acutely since last summer, in having a relationship that comes closest to a ‘my’ horse, which is the best thing that I have made happen in my life so far… 

 

How about you guys?  Do you see yourselves as happy people?  And if so, are you happy now?


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