Happiness Research

More than 60 scientists have been given millions of dollars in funding to help humanity find happiness. A popular movement among psychologists called “positive psychology” is an attempt to elevate and focus its research on peoples’ strengths rather than only trying to deal with human weaknesses and problems.
Although the U.S. standard of living has increased since W.W. II, there is no increase in the number of people who regard themselves as happy. A U.S. News & World Report on the subject says, “Once income provides basic needs, it doesn’t correlate to happiness. Nor does intelligence, prestige, or sunny weather. People grow used to new climates, higher salaries, and better cars.”
Many years and millions of dollars studying and treating depression have succeeded in reducing most people’s levels of sadness, but they are not necessarily happier. Researchers have found that self-esteem, spirituality, family, and good marriages and friendships are key to a happy life. So are hope, meaning, and discovering and pursuing the right goals. Even helping others to be happy can “jump-start a process that will lead to stronger relationships, renewed hope, and a general upward spiraling of happiness.” Just seeing others do a good deed results in that “heartwarming” feeling and influences people to do the same.
Gratitude is another key ingredient to a happy life. People who made a daily and/or frequent practice of being thankful were “not only more joyful; they were healthier, less stressed, more optimistic, and more likely to help others.”
Hope and spirituality work together to provide an important basis to a happy life. “Hope fosters optimism, and faith is, by definition, hope for the future. And the churchgoing form of faith can be a built-in social support network. This is not to say that atheists can’t be happy, but it helps explain why so many do find happiness in faith, and why researchers continue to find connections between faith, optimism, and physical health.”
Holly J. Morris, “Happiness Explained,” U.S. News & World Report (9-03-01), pp. 46-54; submitted by Jerry De Luca, Montreal West, Quebec