BE HAPPY? MAYBE NOT!
Perhaps youíve heard of a possible
connection between Happiness and Longevity. Just be happy and
youíll live longer. It seems straight forward enough and the
opposite seems equally obvious. Be a grouch and your days are
sure to be numbered. But is that really true?
The Pop Psych folks certainly think so.
Walk into a book store and youíre more than likely to find a
whole section devoted tosomething called Positive Psychology.
Similar to Diet books, they claim fast and easy results. Also
similar to Diet books, they mostly donít work. Youíre unlikely
to come away any happier or any thinner. The curious thing is
that despite all the books written and TED Talks given, there is
actually very little legitimate research linking happiness and
The Million Woman Study in the United
Kingdom followed a cohort averaging 60 years of age for a decade
and found there was no solid connection between happiness and
longevity. What they did find was that women who reported being
healthier went on to both live longer and be happier. So you
might say that happiness and longer life are connected but
thatís only true if an individual starts off in good health.
In a way, that takes the responsibility
off the victim. If you donít have a naturally cheerful
personality and you donít wake up singing a song it doesnít mean
youíre doomed. This will, no doubt, come as a relief to some.
But if you want to know what does and what doesnít make people
happy, researchers have found a few connections: Money doesn't
make people happier so long as they have enough. Thereís no
direct correlation between the cash in your pocket and the smile
on your face. Having children doesnít guarantee happiness but
having a mate you appreciate makes it far more likely. Subjects
who drink in moderation tend to be happier while those who smoke
tend to move in the opposite direction. Those who sleep
approximately eight hours a night tend to be happier than those
who sleep significantly more or less.
Education is interesting because it was
generally believed - though it now seems erroneously so - that
the more education the more happiness. In fact, the truth seems
to be more complicated. Research has shown that women who are
less educated are often happier. How might one account for this?
It may be that the heightened expectations that typically come
with a diploma are not being met. Students taking on decades of
post graduate debt for a degree in a field with only limited
possibilities could be a factor. And too, a higher level of
learning encourages a higher level of critical thinking. Perhaps
a newer, clearer view of the world is not as auspicious as a
younger, less educated woman might have assumed.
Look At It This Way
Keep in mind that Happiness is a topic
that can fairly be characterized as under-researched. Grant
money is not low hanging fruit just waiting to be scooped up by
anyone who comes along looking to study things that make for a
good time. For that reason, donít be beset with the burden of
being happy 24/7. Remember that thereís much to be said for the
experience of blue moods, dark poems, somber music and donít
forget...an occasional good cry.