Thursday, February 20, 2014

Happy Math

Happiness itself can be broken down to a number of contributing factors; Arthur C. Brooks shares new conclusions in "A Formula for Happiness."

(1) Genetics: Apparently, practically 50% of happiness is based on DNA.
I can certainly believe that. Observing the wriggly kinfauna in their infancy, there are certainly some who are crabby from birth and others who are more cheerful (it's the latter ones who let you shop in peace). 

(2) Getting what you want: While this does account for about 40% of joy, there is no permanence. The satisfaction begins to fade rather quickly. So that 40% doesn't really count, nor should that method be relied upon. 

That leaves approximately 10%.

(3) This measly percentage is up to us, but it's not in mantras and mind-over-matter. It's devoting oneself to four parameters: 
  • Faith
  • Family 
  • Community 
  • Work 
The first three seem pretty self-explanatory. Work, however, needs a little more clarification.  

While everyone seems to complain about their job, apparently half of Americans claim total satisfaction; 80% are "fairly satisfied."
The reason why poor people are unhappy is, obviously, epic stress. Yet once there is enough money coming in to cover basic expenses, the happiness quotient doesn't rise with higher income. 

While the financially comfortable claim that winning the lottery would have them sunning for the rest of their lives on a Caribbean beach, those with lower incomes claim they would keep their jobs even if they didn't need them anymore. Which is a good idea, since being jobless, even if finances are flush, leads to depression, divorce, and disease. 
Work can bring happiness by marrying our passions to our skills, empowering us to create value in our lives and in the lives of others. Franklin D. Roosevelt had it right: “Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.”
In other words, the secret to happiness through work is earned success.
Luke had a neighbor, an accountant, who tallied numbers until he was over 100. Once he quit, he died within the year. It could have been that he ceased work once his health began to turn, but then again, he clocked in an entire century.   

It has nothing to do with the loftiness of the position, it has to do with feeling as though one's skills are being applied to greater use. 

Since all the nephews go through a Thomas the Tank Engine phase, I am (sadly too) familiar with the storylines. The highest praise that can be given was that he is "a really useful engine, indeed." 
Kids are like that, too. They beam if they get a pat on the head for a small chore well-done. Why do we adults claim to be different? We want to feel like contributing members of society, all in a variety of ways. 

Whether one is a dextrous burger-flipper or the head honcho of a Fortune 500 company, they can both share the same pride and happiness.    


Daniel Saunders said...

Agreed. Occupational therapy (voluntary work, finishing my MA) has been a vital weapon in my long battle with clinical depression. There are few things worse than feeling you have nothing to give to the world.

Princess Lea said...

I think I read something somewhere (points for being specific) how depression can be alleviated by assisting others.

"I sought my God and my God I could not find.
I sought my soul but my soul eluded me.
I sought my brother to help him in his need, and I found all three—
My God, my soul, and thee."