And as we plunge forward into the total-crazed period known as ‘the holidays,’ a segment of days where Americans pretend all kinds of shit — like being happy, for one. Last week, latest installment from the ‘Happy Planet Index,’ a human well-being and environmental report on how well life be nowadays. In the rankings this year, the US is number 105 — Costa Rica has the top spot.
Time magazine has some colorful charts and graphs on the happy index, which reveals ‘some of the world’s high-income nations have considerably low happiness ratings,’ and all kinds of internal shit.
(Illustration: Pablo Picasso’s ‘Harlequin Head,’ found here).
As the numbers show, and the charts and maps foretell, the happiest countries seem to be in the cold and in the warm — the happiest in northern Europe and Latin America. Some off the wall — but mostly in the brisk.
The United Nations also has its own happy-happy index — the latest, ‘World Happiness Report 2013,’ which also ranks countries via happiness, and in this one, the US is ranked number 17, worse than Mexico (at 16) and better than Ireland (at 18).
Via the Guardian that despite the US hard-scrabble bullshit: ‘One in seven Americans has at least 10 credit cards, thus demonstrating a deludedly upbeat attitude to the future.’
In the UN rankings, number one happy country in the world, at least a year ago, was Denmark, followed by Norway.
The UK was ranked #22, and the reason: ‘Britons could never admit to being less happy than the French (25) or Germans (26).’
Bloody good, old boy.
The big question for those credit-crazed Americans: Can money buy happiness? A shitload of people think you can, but in actual reality it’s no, yet the big hinge, apparently, is how you spend the money you have on hand.
Life experiences bring the joy, yet we seek after all kinds of physical shit. Are we all material girls?
A look at research into this financial-happiness dilemma from the Wall Street Journal earlier this month (h/t The Big Picture):
So, Prof. Howell, associate professor of psychology at San Francisco State University, decided to look at what’s going on.
In a study published earlier this year, he found that people think material purchases offer better value for the money because experiences are fleeting, and material goods last longer.
So, although they’ll occasionally splurge on a big vacation or concert tickets, when they’re in more money-conscious mode, they stick to material goods.
But in fact, Prof. Howell found that when people looked back at their purchases, they realized that experiences actually provided better value.
“What we find is that there’s this huge misforecast,” he says.
“People think that experiences are only going to provide temporary happiness, but they actually provide both more happiness and more lasting value.”
And yet we still keep on buying material things, he says, because they’re tangible and we think we can keep on using them.
It’s this process of “hedonic adaptation” that makes it so hard to buy happiness through material purchases.
The new dress or the fancy car provides a brief thrill, but we soon come to take it for granted.
One of the main reasons why having more stuff doesn’t always make us happy is that we adapt to it.
“Human beings are remarkably good at getting used to changes in their lives, especially positive changes,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside.
“If you have a rise in income, it gives you a boost, but then your aspirations rise too.
“Maybe you buy a bigger home in a new neighborhood, and so your neighbors are richer, and you start wanting even more. You’ve stepped on the hedonic treadmill. Trying to prevent that or slow it down is really a challenge.”
When looking at all of these research results, there’s an important caveat to bear in mind.
Those in the field divide happiness into two components, and you need to have both parts working together to be truly happy.
But only one of those components keeps improving the more you earn.
The other tops out after a certain point.
The first measure of happiness is “evaluative.”
Prof. Lyubomirsky defines it as “a sense that your life is good—you’re satisfied with your life, you’re progressing towards your life goals.”
That’s the measure used by economists Justin Wolfers and Betsey Stevenson, who have conducted extensive research comparing economic data and happiness surveys across the world.
“We found very clear evidence that in just about every country around the world, rich people are happier than poor people,” says Prof. Wolfers.
“And people in rich countries are happier than people in poor countries.”
The other component of happiness — “affective” — looks at how often you experience positive emotions like joy, affection and tranquility, as opposed to negative ones, explains Prof. Lyubomirsky.
“You could be satisfied with your life overall but you may not actually be happy at the time,” she says.
“Of course, happy people experience negative emotions, just not as often. So you have to have both components.”
But the American bottom line: ‘“Savings are good for happiness; debt is bad for happiness. But debt is more potently bad than savings are good,” Prof. Dunn says. “From a happiness perspective, it’s more important to get rid of debt than to build savings.”‘
So, welcome to Black Friday — debt starts here.
And money tips your mind, too. Money, root, evil, and so forth.
Yesterday, from Psychological Science:
People’s views on income inequality and wealth distribution may have little to do with how much money they have in the bank and a lot to do with how wealthy they feel in comparison to their friends and neighbors, according to new findings published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
“Our research shows that subjective feelings of wealth or poverty motivate people’s attitudes toward redistribution, quite independently of objective self-interest,” says psychological scientist and study co-author Keith Payne of the University of North Carolina.
The research reveals that feeling relatively wealthy not only led participants to oppose redistribution, it led them to view anyone who disagreed as blinded by self-interest.
Getting money too fast leads directly to Republicanism, or GOP Gotcha, a bad social disease.
Happy therefore is freedom from money — try and buy some holiday cheer with that shit. If you are stuck in a debt and if you think that it is impossible to get out, you must give refreshdebt.co.uk a try and see how they can help you.