The published research and literature on Happiness has exploded in just the past three four years. The institutionalization of meaning-of-life issues have prompted its way to university curriculums and reading rooms in the West and I must admit, it is a welcome one. I read with interest (and with a cheerful smile on my face) the latest issue of Psychology Today and quickly get a basic overview of the area of Happiness research of recent time. Some basic facts within the field are surely not surprising, since it is by and large known within sociology, economy and psychology from before. Some of these ‘basic’ facts are: some people are born with a more happy outlook in life; getting your wishes to come true does NOT bring you much lasting happiness, while the most intriguing view – that happiness and pain must go together in a persons life – is about really an argument for holism. Swedish public TV had a segment on this topic the other day, see below.
Now this view is spreading more and more which actually makes me really glad (and probably a bit depressed, obviously) since happiness studies by its true name should rather be called the study of Meaning of Life, which in turn penetrates a variety of fields such as biology, metaphysics, religion and psychology. Which seems to me as a much more productive way o studying mental health. Happiness studies has the problem in its very definition and institutional setting: it purports to be a description of how we should live to archives “happiness”, as if it was a clear-cut deal (Get happiness now, only 19.95 per month plus a bit of Mindfulness for a small extra fee!!!!).
New books like Nextopia by Micael Dahlén, Professor at the Stockholm School of Economics, discuss the behavioral economics and neurology behind the ‘The grass is always greener on the other side’-mental state (I can recommend reading his blog). According to his blog as well as University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Richard Davidson if you work hard toward a goal, and make progress to the point of expecting a goal to be realized, it activates positive feelings as well as suppressing negative emotions such as fear and depression. This theory is interesting since it could falsely rid us of the notion of Carpe Diem, live for the moment. We really should live for the moment, in my view, it is just important to feel secure in your moment whatever it is.
But I am already feeling happier while planning the next blog post. Can you feel it…?