If a man doesn't have something to die for: he isn't fit to live. --Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

March 20th Is Officially International Happiness Day

First Posted: Sept. 15, 2015, 1:41 p.m. CST
Last Updated: Sept. 16, 2015, 8:06 p.m. CST


Wikipedia: “The United Nations declared [March 20th] the International Day of Happiness to recognise the relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals.” Even the Founding Fathers of the American Declaration of Independence from Britain named the “pursuit of happiness” as one of the unalienable rights of all of mankind. Needless to say, happiness seems, well, pretty darn important.

But even your common sense may be underestimating just how important happiness really is, because you may be surprised to hear that Happiness Research is a real thing. And this isn’t just a one-off. Some of the world’s best academics are engaging in this research, and Gallup Polls are being done on this topic. The Happiness Research Institute and Project Happiness are also real things.

And why shouldn’t we see happiness as research-worthy? If it’s important, it should be researched, right? The economists have brainwashed us (Americans) at least, to believe that the all-too-impersonal “utility function” is the best description of what we want, what drives us, and what makes us “happy.” But what if happiness is more than just utility? What if happiness is more than what is “useful” to us?

Most perceptions of utility boil down to “usefulness,” and, moreover, the usefulness of money. And its usefulness isn’t exactly infinite; the more money we get, it is theorized, the less useful it is to us. But what about the intangible things that can make people happy, like religion, social ties, resilience, and hard work?

With differences that span the entire globe across all the various countries, happiness research is not an easy task, as minute differences in language could systematically introduce changes into the data across various countries. Nonetheless, this article proposes that we need data on what the poorest think because if the very poorest are just as happy as the middle-class or the rich, then happiness must come from somewhere other than money. On this type of research on foreign aid, it states:

And besides, the information might be a threat. What if it turned out that people feel patronised by aid workers? Or that they would rather their food didn’t arrive with logos announcing their indebtedness to foreign governments? Or that they resent being given a T-shirt when really they would sooner just have that money? What if people don’t really want another agricultural programme, and they’d rather have a bus ticket to the nearest town and somewhere to stay when they get there? These kinds of discoveries could be quite discomfiting for the agencies themselves – though in the long run, they would presumably do a better job.

But if there’s any reason to believe the money buys happiness, it's the fact that the Swiss, with their fancy banks and army knives, are officially the happiest people on the planet. In contrast, only 1 in 3 Americans are happy. Finally, this article says that wealth doesn’t make the rich happier, but poverty makes the poor sadder. If I only had a dollar for every time I've heard that.



This article was written by Brehnen Wong.

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