there is a related theory that some of us become obsessed with or
addicted to unhappiness (Pieper & Pieper, 2003).
All these theories have to take into account that Buddhists,
practicing meditation, have been shown to be happier and less
shocked, surprised, distressed and angry than other people (Dr. Paul
Ekman, New Scientist magazine, 2003). There are many other
mysteriesLatin Americans are much happier than Asians;
Scandinavians have both a high rate of happiness and suicide; women
are as happy as men but twice as likely to feel depressed. We need
scientific studies to understand exactly how cultures, attitudes, belief
systems or whatever produce these different levels of happiness.
Indeed, as noted in the introduction, good luck and bad luck don't
influence happiness for long. For instance, big lottery winners after a
few months are no more happy than the average person!
Quadriplegics are no less happy than the average person! Yet, 70% to
80% of Americans are happy and 84% take pride in their work. People
are considerably less happy in poorer countries and only 35% to 40%
of Europeans and Japanese take pride in their work (while making the
best cars, computers, TV, etc.). While America is among the happier
countries, our level of happiness has not increased as our country's
level of real income has grown... but our problems, such as violent
crime, divorce, and depression, have soared. Also, in spite of
Americans' claiming to be generally happy, 33% said they worried
constantly, 40% had often felt lonely, and 28% felt worthless during
the last six months (Shaver & Freeman, 1976). Over 50% said their
happiness changed daily or every few days. Married couples in their
20's are the happiest; divorced women with children and unmarried
males are among the more unhappy. As we will see, good
interpersonal relations are crucial to many people's happiness.
Clearly, certain events, such as a party, are pleasurable to most
people, but certain people, namely the depressed, get little pleasure
out of many such events. You have probably had a similar experience:
you have to be in the right "mood" to enjoy certain activities. So, is
happiness the mood or the activity? Probably both. A big argument
between philosophies is whether happiness is gained by satisfying our
desires (hedonism) or by getting rid of our desires? Maybe both, again.
Also, does happiness occur mostly during the striving for worthy goals
or after having achieved our goals and desires? It seems that a
windfall or achievement makes us happy for a short while, but we
adapt to the bigger house, boat, car, income, etc., and soon start to
lust for a still bigger one.
How do we become happy?
There seems to be so many ways to be happy and, as we will see,
unhappy. Why do we know so little about this very important topic?
Why haven't humans investigated it more seriously? I suspect it is
because a lot of us erroneously believe we have little control over our
happiness, so why bother studying it... and those of us who believe we