Posts Tagged ‘Well-being’

The Power Question

Monday, September 1st, 2008

I found an article called “25 Tips to Become More Productive and Happy at Work” and decided to go through the tips one by one to see if they work for me.

Throughout the month of September I will chronicle this experiment right here, in this blog.   Are you ready for the first tip?  Here it is:

Power Question. Keep a question like this at your desk to help you stay focused: “Am I making the most of my time right now?” or “Is this the most productive use of my time?”

I have to ask myself questions like that all the time, because I tend to multitask too much and lose track of what’s most important.  But would spending .5 seconds every 5 minutes or so re-reading such a question actually make me more productive, and therefore, more happy?

What if you had to complete a task that, in your opinion, was a total waste of time?  Wouldn’t asking yourself that question frustrate you?

I’ll tell you what would make me feel good: instead of a power question at my desk, I would place a sign reading, “What you do is important.”  Feeling important and believing that we matter to the people around us is vital to our happiness and mental health (Dale Carnegie expresses this in his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People“), and may have a more positive direct impact on our emotional well-being than constantly questioning each of our jobs and tasks.

-MJ

Pursuit of happiness

Friday, April 25th, 2008

[...]Imagine you are a president or prime minister. It is imperative to keep your people happy because you hope to be re-elected in order to make your citizens happier and to run your country efficiently. You also know that people care about personal factors like health, income, education and development in general. You have an intuitive idea that they care also about external factors like inflation and security. But how do you work out the relative importance of all these things that constitute well-being which in turn translate to happiness? We are talking about happiness economics.

Historically, economists have said that well-being is a simple function of income. By their argument, happiness ought to be the preserve of the super rich— the Bill Gates and the Roman Abramovichs of this world. But the million dollar question is: Are the rich always happy?[...]

Rooted in this postulation is the thinking of happiness economics, which is the study of a country’s well-being by combining economists’ and psychologists’ techniques. The goal of happiness economics is to determine where people derive their well-being. Happiness economists hope to change the way governments view well-being and how to most effectively govern and allocate resources given this paradox.

Click here for the full article.

Don’t Worry, Be Moderately Happy, Research Suggests

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Could the pursuit of happiness go too far?  Most self-help books on the subject offer tips on how to maximize one’s bliss, but a new study suggests that moderate happiness may be preferable to full-fledged elation.

The researchers, from the University of Virginia, the University of Illinois and Michigan State University, looked at data from the World Values Survey, a large-scale analysis of economic, social, political and religious influences around the world. They also analyzed the behaviors and attitudes of 193 undergraduate students at Illinois.

Their findings challenge the common assumption that all measures of well-being go up as happiness increases. While many indicators of success and well-being do correspond to higher levels of happiness, the researchers report, those at the uppermost end of the happiness scale (people who report that they are 10s on a 10-point life satisfaction score) are in some measures worse off than their slightly less elated counterparts.

Click here for the full article.

The Economics of Happiness, Part 1: Reassessing the Easterlin Paradox

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

Justin Wolfers and Betsey Stevenson discussed their happiness research on CNBC today.

Arguably the most important finding from the emerging economics of happiness has been the Easterlin Paradox.

What is this paradox? It is the juxtaposition of three observations:

1) Within a society, rich people tend to be much happier than poor people.
2) But, rich societies tend not to be happier than poor societies (or not by much).
3) As countries get richer, they do not get happier.

Easterlin offered an appealing resolution to his paradox, arguing that only relative income matters to happiness. Other explanations suggest a “hedonic treadmill,” in which we must keep consuming more just to stay at the same level of happiness.

Either way, the policy implications of the Paradox are huge, as they suggest that economic growth may not raise well-being by much.

Click here for the full article.

Does “counting your blessings” really help?

Monday, April 14th, 2008

While many would agree that “counting your blessings” is a worthwhile practice, there hasn’t been much experimental research on whether gratitude really has a positive impact on our lives. Several studies have found that gratitude correlates with positive emotions such as happiness, pride, and hope, but experimental work — showing that gratitude causes these things — is scarcer.

Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough figured it would be worthwhile to explore this notion. Their method of study was both ingenious and simple: they would ask 201 students in a health psychology class to respond to a weekly questionnaire. Everyone rated their well-being, was tested on a measure of gratefulness, and reported on their physical health and level of exercise. The key to the study was a division into three groups. The first group listed five things they were grateful for each week. The second group listed five hassles or irritants from the past week. The final group simply wrote down five “events or circumstances” from the past week. This continued for ten weeks.

What sort of things did they write?

Some students said they were grateful for “waking up this morning,” or “for wonderful parents,” or “the Lord for just another day.” Hassles were things like “hard to find parking,” “messy kitchen,” or “having a horrible test in health psychology.”

As you might expect, the students in the gratefulness group scored significantly higher than the hassles group on the gratefulness measure. But they also were more positive about the upcoming week and their life as a whole. They were even healthier than both the hassles and events groups, and they reported significantly more hours of exercise (4.35) than the hassles group (3.01). On the more rigorous measure of positive affect, which assesses many different dimensions of positive emotion, there was, however, no significant difference between the groups.

Click here for the full article.