Economic Equality and Social Time Make People Happy

Modern economists and too many politicians argue that economic growth in itself will make people happier. They are wrong. Economic growth doesn’t bring happiness to societies, but decreasing economic inequality does. Another (unsurprising) element also raises people’s happiness: spend more time being social than working. I can only imagine the confusion people who follow the Chicago school are experiencing after reading this paragraph.

The modern world has been built upon the idea that a bigger GDP causes a bigger GNH, which has led to problems we need to address. Automation is causing unemployment of repetitive tasks that used to be a stable career. On top of that, cities are suffering from growing inequality. So what do we do as a society? Jonathan Rose ponders this question at the Atlantic.

But there is a deeper reason. Happiness is tied to what Deaton calls emotionally enriching social experiences. Kahneman says, “The very best thing that can happen to people is to spend time with other people they like. That is when they are happiest.” The way people spend their time is also a critical component of sense of well-being. In another study Kahneman and his colleagues tracked how people experience their day by asking them to record events in fifteen-minute intervals and evaluate them. Walking, making love, exercise, playing, and reading ranked as their most pleasurable activities. Their least happy activities? Work, commuting, child care, and personal computer time. How many people really enjoy a night of plowing through endless emails?

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Good Storytellers Tend to be Happier


Everybody likes a good story, but not everybody can tell a story well. If you are one of those people who are a good storyteller you might just be happier than other people. It turns out that good storytellers are happier and that male storytellers who can spin a good yarn are more attractive to females. Practice makes perfect so try telling stories to everybody!

It feels wonderful to tell someone your stories when you are first becoming intimate. Think of the people you have been in love with in your life. I bet that at least once early in your relationship you stayed up all night talking, telling stories that were revealing and illuminating. That deep communication is sexy.

Stories are profoundly intimate, says Kari Winter, a historian and literary critic at the University at Buffalo. “It is empowering to the teller because they get recognition from the listener. And it is empowering to the listener because it helps them understand the teller.”

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30 Minutes in Your Local Park is Perfect


Urban parks are great and now some Aussie researchers have found another reason to create more of them: it’s really good for your health. We’ve known for years that spending time in nature is good for people but his research augments that knowledge with a timeframe. It takes only 30 minutes of being in an a park to see benefits to one’s health. Which means that you can get enough nature on your lunch break (you should get more though).

“If everyone visited their local parks for half an hour each week there would be seven per cent fewer cases of depression and nine percent fewer cases of high blood pressure,” she said.

“Given that the societal costs of depression alone in Australia are estimated at $A12.6 billion a year, savings to public health budgets across all health outcomes could be immense,” she said.

UQ CEED researcher Associate Professor Richard Fuller said the research could transform the way people viewed urban parks.

“We’ve known for a long time that visiting parks is good for our health, but we are now beginning to establish exactly how much time we need to spend in parks to gain these benefits,” he said.

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And over at Reddit a user posted a good summary on why nature is good for you:

It’s probably a combination of things. Sunlight allows the body to produce vitamin D, which has been linked with a reduction in depressive symptoms.

When you’re in a park you’re likely walking and doing physical activities, and exercise is positively correlated with improvements in mood and reduced depressive symptoms, not to mention it’s good for the heart, blood pressure, and physical health in general.

Via Reddit.

Achievements Don’t Equate To Happiness

The pursuit of happiness is life to some people, although they’ll likely never achieve it. They won’t get to their desired level of happiness because they think that a certain achievement will bring them happiness. Instead, they should learn what books of wisdom already know: be happy with what you have.

In his book If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?, Raj Raghunathan looks into this question. He has much to share when it comes to happiness and how one should think about that desired emotional state in the context of their life as a whole.

Raghunathan: That’s the plight of most people in the world, I would say. There are expectations that if you achieve some given thing, you’re going to be happy. But it turns out that’s not true. And a large part of that is due to adaptation, but a large part of it also is that you see this mountain in front of you and you want to climb over it. And when you do, it turns out there are more mountains to climb.

The one thing that has really really helped me in this regard is a concept that I call “the dispassionate pursuit of passion” in the book, and basically the concept boils down to not tethering your happiness to the achievement of outcomes. The reason why it’s important to not tie happiness to outcomes is that outcomes by themselves don’t really have an unambiguously positive or negative effect on your happiness. Yes, there are some outcomes—you get a terminal disease, or your child dies—that are pretty extreme, but let’s leave those out. But if you think about it, the breakup that you had with your childhood girlfriend, or you broke an arm and were in a hospital bed for two months, when they occurred, you might have felt, “Oh my goodness, this is the end of the world! I’m never going to recover from it.” But it turns out we’re very good at recovering from those, and not just that, but those very events that we thought were really extremely negative were in fact pivotal in making us grow and learn.

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Be Happy With What You Have

It’s often thought that if one had more money they would be happier, bills would be easy to pay and work would be less stressful. It turns out that that is not the case. Once one has their basic needs met the more they earn the less of an impact it has on their happiness.

Be happy with what you have and stop thinking that material wealth will solve your problems. Embrace the now and appreciate what is around you.

The idea of the hedonic treadmill can apply to discrete pleasures—like getting accustomed to better beer—or it can apply to an overall lifestyle. There is evidence that if an individual’s basic needs are met, after a certain point, increases in income do not lead to much greater happiness. As the money we have to spend goes up, so too do our expectations and desires—and with them the possibility of disappointment. A now-classic study from 1978 compared the happiness of lottery winners with a control group drawn from the same neighborhoods. The researchers interviewed lottery winners after the initial thrill had worn off. When asked to rate their present level of happiness, the lottery winners answered in the same way as did the control group. The two groups also made similar predictions about their future happiness. And when asked about a number of mundane pleasures—talking with a friend or eating breakfast—the lottery winners actually derived less pleasure than did the control group.

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