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Is there method to happiness?

Ksenia Zheltoukhova

18 April 2011

Eric Weiner, author of 2008 bestseller The Geography of Bliss, had little hope for the UK to become a happy state. Weiner observed that in effect “British culture hinders happiness. The most obvious manifestation is the lack of hugging.”
With giving hugs being just one recommendation from the recently launched Action for Happiness, embracing the feeling might be more challenging than it seems. While day-to-day positive moods may rely on practical things; factors underlying genuine long-term happiness are yet to be discovered.

Income is just one aspect of an individual’s well-being. Deaton and Kahneman found that money cannot buy happiness after earnings reach $75,000 a year: once people felt financially secure, they valued quality of life more than a wage increase. Millions of Britons are yet to experience that financial security.

What the new initiative indicates is that there is more to individual satisfaction than personal income and on a national level, there is more to national success than GDP.

At times of economic vulnerability it is too risky to rely on satisfaction of material prosperity. Instead people start to appreciate social relationships, as well as seek emotionally rewarding experiences. Sense of personal and social fulfilment strengthens resilience to financial hardship.

Work, and particularly good work, is of value more than ever before. Not only does employment give individuals the benefit of being able to pay their bills, but it has been shown to have positive impact on physical and mental well-being. Engaging in meaningful work and being recognised for what they do well may give people that sense of purpose in life that can make a significant contribution to happiness. However, organisations must be creative to recognise and enhance employees’ individual values and strengths to satisfy individual needs.

British society is yet to observe the long-term effects of happiness. The Work Foundation’s annual debate this year will explore the worth of the government’s attempts to measure and improve happiness levels. Whether or not they succeed in their ambitious aims will remain to be seen.

Comments in Chronological Order (Total 1 Comments)


20 Apr 2011 8:27AM

I wish this were true. I recently completed a 3 year course of study to become a nurse. Believing it would enrich my working life, by feeling I have at least done something to help someone at the end of my working day. Instead I findthe reality is that I don't have the time to deliver the excellent level of care I believe people deserve. I am left with little time to have a positive work life balance, am stressed beyond belief, do not have the time to care for my own loved ones and frankly am finding I now feel rather hopeless about it all. My own health has suffered for my quest to aid others' health.

I am desperate to be happy again in my employment. I am left now severely lacking confidence in my own ability.