Scientific American Mind (Part 2)

November 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’m analysing Scientific American Mind (finally… it’s been about a month since I first read the articles from this issue!)

The Many Faces of Happiness by Suzann Pileggi Pawelski, P51, Scientific American Mind, September/October 2011, Volume 22, Number 4, Scientific American, a division of Nature American inc, New York

tagline: Cultural twists on the concept hint at new ways of lifting your spirits and making you more content with life

Those in ‘positive psychology… are still trying to agree on a defining on happiness. Some think of this state in emotional terms. Other scientists believe happiness comes from a more reasoned appraisal of life satisfaction.’ P52

‘As long as basic needs are met… money appears not to have much of an effect.’

‘Although the US is economically richer than Denmark, the Danes are psychologically better off. The difference may lie in a person’s ability to trust other people’s good intentions.’

‘Danes expressed faith in their government and business sectors and expected to have a lost wallet returned to them.’ Americans are distrusting on all these counts.

‘Deiner had found evidence that materialism is associated with unhappiness. And in South Korea, subjective well-being is low despite its economic prosperity.’ ‘…on a scale of 1 to 9 how much they value material wealth’, South Koreans scored 7.24 on average – that’s high relative to other economically flourishing countries. ‘Anger and depression are widespread in South Korea, and the suicide rate is the highest of the 34 richest nations in the world.’
‘…greater competition among citizens [such as competing for few university places] creates a more stressful environment.’

‘Costa Rica and some of its neighbours mioght abound in the ingredients that researchers have found to be most important for happiness – social and psychological factors such as possessing strong ties with family and friends, being generally able to trust strangers, mastering particular skills and feeling respected by others.’ Also ‘thinking highly of your homeland’ helps.

Idea: workshops to teach people to be nice to strangers. For adults only.

‘A sense of belonging, the researchers say, can be an important source of happiness and life satisfaction for everyone.’

‘By shifting our focus away from our individual lives and toward our country, we Westerners may be able to tap this course of pleasure.’

‘Do you have family or friends you can count on in an emergency? Did you learn something new during the day? Were you able to do what you do best? Could you choose how you spent your time?’
‘Having your psychological needs met…engendered more positive feelings on the day assessed. Thus, luxury goods can make you feel more satisfied but do not make your life more enjoyable.’
So, having things may make you more satisfied but will not keep giving you happiness.

Happiness is short term, and satisfaction is longer lasting.

‘Many people see success as an important ingredient for happiness – and it can be. But Diener urges caution when defining success as Americans typically do. In addition to positivity itself, he says that Americans sometimes overemphasize fortune and fame and undervalue the use of personal strengths and the achievement of results that benefit others… success boosts well-being if it comes from excelling at activities that you and others respect, rather than from simply dong better than others.’

The Maasai tribe are happy because ‘they focus on what they have rather than what they lack. In addition, they have a lot of self-respect and possess the skills they need to flourish’. ‘they all live and materially simple life…which might mean they compete less with one another.’

‘We could sepnd more time doing what we enjoy and are good at, looking out for the greater good and bonding with our friends and family… just pondering these ideas might even earn you a smile.’

A smile what I want to achieve at the very least from this project!

Further reading:
From Culture to Priming Conditions: Self-Construal Influences on Life Satisfaction Judgements, Suh, Diener and Updegraff, Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, Vol 39, no.1, pages 3-15, 2008
Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, Diener
Wealth and Happiness across the World, Diener, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 99, No 1, P 52-61, 2010
Subjective Well-Being and National Satisfaction, Morrison, Tay and Diener, Psychological Science, Vol.22, pages 166-171, Feb 2011.


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