What makes us happy?
I liked Claudia Wall’s essay, "Science of Happiness: New Research on Mood, Satisfaction”, from http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1015902,00.html because it provides revealing and interesting information on what makes people happy. Through a variety of examples, Walls emphasizes that the common things society pegs as happiness-generating don’t necessarily work, and provides the “real” attributes and actions that generate specific and overall satisfaction.
I'm learning more about happiness right now, and in particular what I'm wondering about is: What makes us happy? I was researching this question online, and this TIME magazine article caught my attention because of how in-depth and useful the information was on happiness.
As said by Walls, “More than one might imagine — along with some surprising things about what doesn't ring our inner chimes. Take wealth, for instance, and all the delightful things that money can buy. Research by Diener, among others, has shown that once your basic needs are met, additional income does little to raise your sense of satisfaction with life. A good education? Sorry, Mom and Dad, neither education nor, for that matter, a high IQ paves the road to happiness. Youth? No, again. In fact, older people are more consistently satisfied with their lives than the young”.
The quote I chose here is basically saying that stereotyped sources of happiness have little positive affect in reality. Even if a person is in their “prime”, has a lot of money, and is very intelligent, those things can only provide so much pleasure. So, this text hints that it may actually be what we take for granted which gives us the most happiness.
I think this is very interesting because it contradicts what popular culture has set our minds to believe is beneficial. It makes me wonder about how contemporary values may even have negative effects, and worries me about whether or not I am living a truly good life. Personally, I don't think that my family has a lot of money nor do I believe that I am at my optimal age. However, while I consider myself to be of only average intelligence naturally, the excessive effort I put into schoolwork may be doing more harm than good. Through forcing myself to be so dedicated to school, I have taken myself away from "ordinary" teenage pleasures, such as playing sports, watching movies, etc. This lack of entertainment not only has made my life terribly monotonous, but emphasizes the stress that I get from my grades. While I do not openly show it, my desire to be a "perfect student" is really making me a sad guy. So, maybe the answer to fixing my own happiness issue is to get more time to relax, although my inner tendencies and built-in strictness may think otherwise...
Another sentence Walls wrote that stands out for me is: "Even the happiest of people — the cheeriest 10% — feel blue at times. And even the bluest have their moments of joy". I think this is significant because it tells readers that there are never any consistently sad people or consistently happy people. Thus, it is good to know because one can avoid feeling pressured to always be happy, and at the same time, one would be aware that sadness would have to end eventually.
A third sentence that I liked was: "For Seligman and like-minded researchers, that involves working on the three components of happiness — getting more pleasure out of life (which can be done by savoring sensory experiences, although, he warns, "you're never going to make a curmudgeon into a giggly person"), becoming more engaged in what you do and finding ways of making your life feel more meaningful." This stood out for me because it gives potentially useful advice in becoming happier. I do agree with Walls that enjoying oneself, being passionate, and finding meaning are great, yet underrated and maybe even under-acknowledged methods of being happy. One reason I say this is because I myself have felt good when achieving something meaningful, like when getting, ironically, a good grade on a test (but that still doesn't justify being so obsessive about school). And in a better example, I always get a positive change in mood from playing tennis, whether I win or lose horribly, as it is a major personal pleasure.
Another reason I agree with Claudia Walls is because of how she mentions that happiness is far from simple, and that a variety of factors ranging from genetics to single events can have huge impacts on it. What I appreciate about this writer's work is that she provides many thorough examples that support her arguments and gives references to the work of others, such as the researcher Edward Deiner. This allows for the reading to feel accurate and believable. I look forward to seeing what she writes next, because she is descriptive and can put in many scenarios that add to the main topic. Particularly regarding happiness, I think she did an excellent job in entailing what hinders and helps us to reach it, and I intend to focus more on the positive ideas she mentioned.