Aren't we really happier than we think?
By Paul Susic M.A. Licensed
Judging by all the negative
news and the onslaught of self-help books, you might think that happiness is
just a fantasy for most people. Even psychologists seem much more interested in
studying people’s difficulties or what we define as their "psychopathology".
However, there is very good news. There's a growing body
of research in the United States as well as throughout the rest of the world
that finds that most people's lives are much more upbeat than we may think. In
fact, most people throughout the world say that they are happy, including those
that are poor, unemployed, elderly and disabled. One study found that over 90%
of people with quadraplegia say that they're happy to be alive, and overall,
people with spinal cord injuries report feeling only slightly less happy than
other people. This happiness seems to be equally divided among men and women,
with them equally declaring themselves to be either satisfied or very happy in a
recent research study. Also, it seems that the old adage that "Money can't buy
happiness" is also true. Wealthy people appear to be only slightly happier than
people of a more modest means. Overall, another study found that only one
person in 10 reports being "not too happy".
Although people don't appear
to be happy every day, most seem to rebound quite well from the normal
disappointments of life. Happy people also seem to continue being happy from
decade to decade, regardless of job changes, moves and family changes. Some
research studies have found that happiness seems to be only briefly affected by
life events. Happy people seem to adjust to negative events and return to their
usual cheerful state within a short period of time. Conversely, unhappy people
are frequently not cheered up in the long-term even by positive events.
If this upbeat attitude is
not affected by life events, gender, race, or income, what makes people happy?
Some research has found that happiness is dependent on personality
characteristics and interpretive styles. Happy people are usually more
optimistic and extroverted and tend to have several close friends and
relationships. Happy people also seem to have higher self-esteem and believe
that they are in control of their lives.
Some researchers believe
that people may even have a "happiness set point" to which they consistently
return, despite the ups and downs of life. Some researchers have also found by
studying twins that as much as half of one’s sense of happiness may be related
to genetic factors.
A better understanding of
the roots of happiness may come in the near future, perhaps providing useful
solutions to people who are not happy, as well as those who are clinically
depressed. In the meantime, we have the comfort of knowing that the human
condition isn't quite as unhappy as news stories may make it seem.
information from Abnormal Psychology by Ronald J. Comer
Information and webpage by
Licensed Psychologist Ph.D. Candidate
(Health and Geriatric Psychologist)
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