Thursday, October 15, 2009

People of Key West - are you Happy?

I read an article in Newsweek about happiness and our current obsession with it.

According to Psychology Today, in 2000 50 books were written about happiness. In 2008 that number was a staggering 4,000.

I am reading one of those 4,000 books at the moment: The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt. It's original, well written and very insightful.

He brings together in the book some of the thousands of studies and experiments done on happiness (the modern work as well as old theories, quoting Edgar Allen Poe, Buddha, Marcus Aurelius, Confucius, the Bible, and Stephen Hawking amongst others).

This got me thinking: are the people of Key West happier than average?

Or: if you move to Key West, on average will it make you happier?

To quote various section from the book:

Buddha preached... happiness comes from within, and it cannot be found from making the world conform to your desires. Buddhism teaches that attachment leads inevitably to suffering and offers tools for breaking attachments. Focus only on what you can fully control...which means primarily your own thoughts and reactions.

...

Let go, stop striving, and choose a new path.

...

A main determinant of happiness is the voluntary activities we do. The author recommends reducing noise and reducing commuting, being able to control your life and creating lots of time to devote to your main relationship.

The achievement of weath does not make people significantly more happy.

Nor does the acjivement of big career goals and other achievements.

It's the journey toewards goals (any goals, bot just big career goals) that is far, far more important that the achieement if that goal.

So, for all of that, I guess Key West is well placed to he a happy place.

Drop out = feel good.

My bigest take out from the book was about how we set outselves very high personal objectives and targets in this modern world. We have very high expectations of ourselves. The author describes how destructive this is.

My favourite quote is from wheelchair bound motor nurone disease-sufferer Stephen Hawking (the author of the best selling science book of all time):

How does he keep his spirits up?

'My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.'