Friday, January 31, 2014

A Formula for Happiness?

On the NY Times Opinion page, Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute talks about controlling one's own happiness:

Beneath these averages are some demographic differences. For many years, researchers found that women were happier than men, although recent studies contend that the gap has narrowed or may even have been reversed. Political junkies might be interested to learn that conservative women are particularly blissful: about 40 percent say they are very happy. That makes them slightly happier than conservative men and significantly happier than liberal women. The unhappiest of all are liberal men; only about a fifth consider themselves very happy.
That part is interesting.  The leftist's response may be that "ignorance is bliss."  I tend to think, though, that, in general, a conservative person is one who believes that happiness is choice, as Minirth and Meier said in their book title many years ago

I battle depression all of the time, at least in part because of my "You can sleep when you're dead" approach to getting things done.  Once I figured that out, I know when everything seems black I need to take a nap or something.

Another trick I have learned is that insanity may be caused by dehydration.  If I find myself going into a rage, I probably need a drink of water.  "A thirsty throat and a crazy head are one," he counseled (Ismail the Afghan, from Talbot Mundy's King -- of the Khyber Rifles).

Back to happiness which, Brooks asserts, is not a matter of financial success for most Americans.  It may be related to work, though only when we earn it:
In other words, the secret to happiness through work is earned success.
That would go a long way toward explaining why leftist males are both leftists and unhappy.  Many are employed in the public sector and find no creative challenge by which true success may be measured.  The average government worker just has to show up and avoid causing trouble to be a "success" -- after all, the first word in success is sucks.  

As Brooks points out, there are many factors that go into determining whether or not a person is happy, including genetics and recent events -- all the "this, too, shall pass" stuff.  No matter what our genes and circumstances incline us toward, we can make the choice to look up and find happiness in faith, in relationships, in our own creative outlets.  Maybe even something as stupid as blogging.


  1. Great post.

    Choosing to be happy, thankful, appreciative, kind, generous, and gracious are all things we can do to improve not only our own sense of well-being but others people's as well.

    The 'happyness is a choice' idea is one that is foreign to many people. Ok sometimes I can be a grumpy old man, especially if I have to queue needlessly, or wait on hold for an eternity, none of us are perfect - right?

    But, taking responsibility for our own sense of well being, and totally eliminating blame and self pity from our lives, is one of the best choices any human being can make.

  2. Brenden, as older males, I think certain amount of grump is expected. People would be disappointed if we were too chipper.

    Seriously, though, you're quite right. I can't control what other people do, but I can decide how I'm going to respond and how I'm going to feel about it. I have been guilty of self-pity, and it is a destructive waste of time and energy.