to become hypomanic (impulsive and overactive) if they go over the
edge. Certainly, strong negative and strong positive feelings can both
motivate us powerfully. Some historians and anthropologists believe
that positive feelings helped our species evolve, just as fears and envy
surely did. Given the choice, however, most of us as individuals would
prefer a productive life without being depressed or manic. And no one
would deny that many important contributions have been made by
happy, enthusiastic, able, well adjusted people with lots of friends.
Which life circumstances change our happiness level and which
Here is some important research we need to know:
Relationships--a close, lasting, caring love relationship is for many
a wellspring of happiness. Having good friends also gives most people
continuing pleasure, too. A quarrelsome relationship can be the cause
of much lasting unhappiness. Being lonesome continues to be
unpleasant year after year. Maintaining a loving partnership is one of
the surest way to happiness40% of married people say they are
very happy (that is a little higher than the usual estimates). Only
25% of unmarried, divorced, separated and widowed say they are
very happy. Remember they have suffered a significant loss.
Religion--religious people tend to be a little happier and more
satisfied with life. And why not, since they have a relationship with
God, maybe a special sense of purpose, the promise of a wonderful life
after death, and a facilitated social life? The more fundamentalist the
religion, the more optimistic the believers tend to be, and the higher
level of hope they tend to have.
Moneywhile, in general, people living in a wealthy, free country
are clearly happier than people in a poor country, making a lot of
money is usually an ineffective way to achieve happiness. In fact, once
we get into a materialistic mode of acquiring things, the result is
often less happiness, maybe even compulsiveness, competitiveness,
boredom, or meaninglessness in the long haul.
Negative feelings--one might think that avoiding negative emotions
and situations might make our lives happier, i.e., filled with more joy,
but that is not necessarily true. Some people dont have many
feelings, positive or negative. Other people have lots of negative
feelings and lots of positive feelings. Indeed, women have about twice
as much depression as men
and they have about twice as much joy.
So, holding down or escaping unpleasant feelings might help a little to
be happy but it isnt a sure-fire powerful tool.
Most other situations in life have relatively little to do with
happiness. That includes age, health, degree of education, climate you
live in, race, and gender. You cant change most of these things
anyway. Thus, it is easy to see that gaining happiness by changing