Crawl Across the Ocean

Sunday, June 24, 2007

If it Makes You Happy

The Globe has a big feature on happiness this weekend, helpfully spreading the word that, in modern societies, gaining wealth only really makes us happy to the extent that it covers off basic physical needs (food/health/shelter). After your personal GDP exceeds around $7,500 or so, the relationship between increased wealth and increased happiness breaks down, according to the research.

I'm sure that on Monday, the entirety of the Globe staff will revert to equating GDP growth with happiness, as is the their default condition, and indeed, the conventional wisdom in our society.

Personally, I've found that happiness takes work, just like almost everything else in life, and I can certainly believe the contention in this article by Charles Montgomery, that nothing causes more unhappiness than commuting. It's an interesting article in general, as Montgomery writes about some of the changes that have been made in Bogota, Columbia, where the former Mayor talks about how he championed pedestrian routes, bike lanes and transit, believing that the key to happiness for people was not to feel inferior (to those who could afford to drive a car), and that given how many years it might take before all Bogotans could afford a car, the quicker route to happiness would be just to place those without a car on an equal footing with car-owners.

Finally, for Seinfeld fans, the following quote from another article in the Globe on how junk food can make you happy,
"Margaret Morris, a professor of pharmacology at the University of New South Wales in Australia, found that stressed rats that had been separated from their mothers at birth got less pleasure from a sugary drink than a control group.

But when they were fed a high-fat diet, the stressed-out rats started loving the sugar water as much as the normal animals. Dr. Morris says eating junk food probably made them feel better, as seems to be the case with humans."

Or perhaps, it was just that those pretzels were making them thirsty.


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