addition, can occasionally manage to have an intensely positive
experience, such as a new child, a fantastic vacation, public
recognition for an achievement, etc. The frequency of positive
experiences is more important, Diener says, than the intensity of
occasional positive events.
The Interaction of Happiness and Depression
It is commonly thought that happiness is the positive end of the
depression scale. Of course, in the extremes, great happiness and
deep depression are mutually exclusive; you can hardly be in the
depths of suicidal depression and be considered happy at the same
time. But in the less extreme ranges, happiness and depression appear
to be rather independent of each other. It is very interesting that
psychologists consistently find women in general are more depressed
than men, but psychological tests also show men and women are
equally happy. This clearly shows that happiness is not just the
opposite of depression (Myers, 1992). This also fits with common
sense about happiness. That is, people know they can go out and have
a good time at a party, then come home to be lonely and miserable
again. Another example: you can handle some situation that is causing
you to be very unhappy, but that accomplishment may not produce
much happiness, just relief from the pain. You can be unhappy about
some things and happy about others at the same time, much like you
can both love and hate a person at the same time (Swanbrow, 1989;
Diener, Sandvik, & Pavot, 1990). In contrast, you can't be both
relaxed and anxious at the same time.
We are learning more about happiness. One interesting point is
that happy people tend to be decisive, healthy, creative, motivated,
social, trusting, and caring, compared to unhappy people. Another is
that they feel "in control" and/or have a sense of well being. As you
might expect, happy people have more faith in a "higher power" than
unhappy people. Among atheists and non-religious, only about 15%-
30% claim to be "very happy." Among religious folks, 25% to 40% say
they are "very happy." A religion helps us handle great losses
(probably due to the concept of eternal life), but religious people
sometimes feel less in personal control (Myers, 1992).
Religion becomes self-therapy.
We must select the illusion which appeals to our temperament and
embrace it with passion, if we want to be happy.