Are You Happy?

Trust in government, credible business organisations, community and social supports, income levels, and the ability to make choices are listed as some of the things that make us happy. Increasing the number of positive experiences we have on a daily basis is also seen as beneficial to our general wellbeing.

Happiness research

Happiness research is now recognised as a discipline worthy of study to help develop policies that improve the lives of citizens. Traditional economic measures in education, health and poverty are undergoing review, as greater emphasis is placed on what makes us happy. There is of course an acceptance that people are happier when economic inequality is kept to a minimum, although the divide between rich and poor is growing in many nations.

Having enough money for the essentials of life is an obvious way to increase people’s happiness. But enjoying small things and spending time with family and friends is equally important, once money is no longer an immediate concern. Work also provides satisfaction and a sense of purpose for those who enjoy what they do. Working with others as part of a team when linked to the pursuit of a shared vision also increases happiness levels.

Researchers are always interested in measuring happiness and so brain-based research has increased in recent years albeit, as yet, without any definitive results. But scientists also turn their attention to analysing our DNA to find clues as to why some people are happier than others on a consistent basis, regardless of circumstance. Research also indicates that developing policies to nudge people towards happiness is more helpful than just expecting it to happen in a vacuum. Even the weather is examined to understand its effect, as sunny climates are often associated with happier populations.

Tracking happiness

Regardless of what we think about the value of studying happiness governments are taking the matter seriously. Happiness indexes are tracked in countries around the world in an attempt to improve the mental and physical health of citizens. Research scientists constantly examine the things that make us happy, in an effort to influence government policy and shape new thinking.

The big question of course remains unanswered, as happiness defies traditional objective measurement although there is a growing appreciation of what motivates individuals and groups. But there is already ample research to highlight the need to do more. One early trend however conflicts with our basic human nature – which is to always want more: as there is evidence that the best way to be happy is to be satisfied with less, enjoy a simple life and spend time with those you love.

So, the science of happiness is emerging as a serious discipline for research, as governments embrace new ways to improve the lives of those they govern.