February 18, 2008

The Keys to Happiness

Back again after a short break.

Yesterday I saw an episode of 60 Minutes on the "keys to happiness". It was a pretty good episode but some parts were... interesting and even contradictory.

Such as one part where a professor of positive physiology at Harvard explained that Americans are some of the unhappy people because of they are "trying to do it all" and achieve material happiness.

While I agree with this, there is a distinction to be made between the material and financial. While material things don't make you happy the importance of having enough money to pay for your essential expenses (food and shelter) and having enough saved for the future is a key to not happiness but peace of mind.

The program even stated a common stereotype that the wealthy are the unhappiest class and the title to that segment is called "you can't have it all." That's up for debate.

Money doesn't make you happy but being financially free will give you the gift of time. Time to do things and be with people that actually make you happy.

Meaningful relationships with freinds, family and romantic partners are a key to happiness which the professor stated as a key to happiness. Humans are social animals and need others for support. Studies show people with freinds are more likely to live longer lives than those without.

The program also cited Denmark as the happiest country in the world, despite having the second highest suicide rate in Europe. 60 Minutes cited it was due to their low expectations of themselves. Number five was Switzerland, one of the most expensive countries in the world. America ranked in at 23 and very last in happiness was Burundi, one of the poorest countries in the world.

Even though these studies give a glimpse at how happy a country may be they are mostly quasi- scientific and it is extremely difficult to measure happiness for an entire country. Happiness is relative to each person. The universal meaning of happiness cited by the Harvard professor was doing something "meaningful and important to you." What is meaningful and important to each person is relative. The keys to happiness are really inside of you.

More next time.