The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

Columns

October 12, 2009

Happiness cannot be overrated

In the Oct. 5 edition of Newsweek, columnist Julia Baird bemoans America's "obsession with smiley-faced happiness" and poses the question, "Is this endless pursuit of happiness just making us all miserable?" Baird says studies show that Americans are no happier today than they were 30 years ago, despite steady economic growth and an increasing focus on positive thinking seen everywhere from best-selling self-help books to coffee mugs to corporate trainings. Furthermore, she posits the idea that this blind optimism is not only ineffective but dangerously distracting, causing us to ignore the warnings that might have prevented disasters such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.

I agree with Baird on some points: Too much head-in-the-sand optimism can be harmful; our culture's obsession with happiness as a goal to be achieved can be damaging; and promoting the concept that you can "visualize" your way to love, riches and fulfillment can set people up for failure "" and make them more unhappy than they were in the first place.

It's true that Americans are constantly told that we can (and should) be happy, from the "Don't Worry, Be Happy" T-shirts and buttons of the late '80s to today's barrage of self-help advice in books, blogs, magazine covers and "Oprah" episodes.

What Baird fails to mention is the growing body of legitimate scientific research examining why some people are happier than others and what makes people happy over their life spans. The value of this research should not be dismissed, especially as life expectancy increases. (According to a Danish Aging Research Center study released this week, babies born in the United States and Western Europe today are expected to live to 100.) Thousands of happiness studies have been conducted in the U.S. and around the world, and many more are in progress. In an effort to create a clearinghouse for this research, the Department of Sociology at Erasmus University Rotterdam in The Netherlands has created a World Database of Happiness (worlddatabaseofhappiness.eur.nl/) Maybe I'm just an incurable optimist, but I think some of these studies provide valuable insight. Consider:

Text Only
Big Chuck D'Imperio
Cary Brunswick

Chuck Pinkey
Guest Column
Lisa Miller

Mark Simonson

Rick Brockway
Sam Pollak
William Masters
  • Schreibman tops Chris Gibson on women's issues

    As the time to vote draws near, we need to remember how money can run politics more than we can. Raising funds is a prominent (if not the dominant) task of getting elected. Raising issues is also crucial, but those efforts are subject to distortion and fear-mongering.

    September 18, 2012

  • Republicans feelentitled to allthey can garner

    An entitlement is a legal benefit available from the government to individuals who are within a defined category of recipients, such as needing insurance for unemployment or health services.

    September 4, 2012

  • Romney focuses on self; Obama emphasizes unity

    Mitt Romney criticizes President Obama for saying a person's success is rooted in his community, and is not all his alone. Romney belittles this with his belief in individual initiative. He is better at the put-down than the push-up.

    August 21, 2012

  • Romney shows little regard for common man

    The Republicans in Congress have voted over and over, 33 times, redundantly and uselessly, to rescind what they call Obamacare.

    August 7, 2012

  • Scouts' gay ban creates problem where none exists

    The Boy Scouts of America's "emphatic reaffirmation" of its vow to exclude any and all homosexuals from its hallowed ranks is ill-considered and pathetic, especially in view of its having reviewed the matter for two years.

    July 24, 2012

Additional Content
Join the Debate
Helium
Additional Resources
CNHI News Service
Poll

Are you more or less religious than your parents?

More religious
Less religious
About the same
     View Results