Friday, January 14, 2005

Curious about Happiness? So Are the Experts!

I urge you to pick up the January 17, 2005 issue of Time Magazine. Even though the cover sports the ubiquitous smiley face, this issue includes a well-researched and informative report on the Science of Happiness.

There are so many interesting facts, ideas, and theories that I can’t begin to touch on all or even some of them, but in hopes of whetting your appetite, here are a few that I found especially fascinating:
  • Once our basic needs are met, additional income does little to raise our sense of satisfaction with life.
  • Older people are more consistently satisfied with their lives than the young.
  • Researcher David Lykken, after comparing data on 4,000 sets of twins - identical vs. fraternal - concluded that 50% of one’s satisfaction with life comes with genetic programming. (Genes influence such traits as having a sunny, easy-going personality; dealing well with stress; and feeling low levels of anxiety and depression.)
  • University of California psychologist Sonia Lyubomirsky and other researchers suggest the following eight steps toward a more satisfying life:
    1. Count your blessings.
    2. Practice acts of kindness.
    3. Savor life’s joys.
    4. Thank a mentor.
    5. Learn to forgive.
    6. Invest time and energy in friends and family.
    7. Take care of your body.
    8. Develop strategies for coping with stress and hardships.
  • Did you know that Dr. Madan Kataria started his first laughter club in 1995 after reading about the medical benefits of a good giggle? Today there are 1,800 such clubs in India and an additional 700 around the world. Kataria says, “We don’t need doctors to tell us it’s good for us. We know it.” (I took part in a similar session - club - what a hoot!)
  • In studies at the University of Utah, Lisa Aspinwall had found that when presented with an unsolvable problem, optimists spend less time on strategies that don’t produce results. Pessimists, on the other hand, tend to ensnare themselves in one approach, sticking with it despite its futility.

I have briefly touched on a few of the nuggets of wisdom about happiness and the study of happiness that you will read about in Time.

My story
Many years ago, I placed a personal ad in Cleveland Magazine: “Wanted: a smart, sexy, slim man with a joie de vivre.” One delightful man who answered my ad, commented, “Chris, don’t you know that every man thinks he is smart, sexy and slim, but few even know what a `joie de vivre’ is, let alone have one.” Unfortunately, he was right.

Do you have what I call true happiness - a joie de vivre? I hope so!