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The pursuit of happiness

March 3rd, 2012 | Posted by Brian Pearson in Happiness

There is a lot of hype about happiness out there. From books proposing how to find true happiness like The Happiness Hypothesis and The Happiness Project, to one simply called Happiness. Any moment now I am expecting to find one called “One Minute Happiness”  written just to satisfy the consumer who wants happiness and wants it now!

Beyond the myriad one-minute solutions out there, there may be something to the formula that Haidt proposes in the Happiness Hypothesis. H=S+C+V where S is your biological set point for happiness, C are the conditions of your life and V are the voluntary activities you do. He says that some external conditions do matter and when possible it may be worth striving to gain those conditions that will make a lasting difference to our happiness. He also says that there are certain types of V or Voluntary activities that lend themselves to being happier. He specifically mentions those where the experience of “flow” can be found. These naturally occur when your strengths and skills are well matched to the type of activity you are involved in, but can also happen via other enjoyable experiences, social and otherwise.

It’s a formula, but not really. Haidt is clearly making the case that we do not have to be slaves to our S (biological set point). The pursuit of happiness is possible and indeed worthwhile, and although there are some directions that are more promising than others to pursue, each of us has still has to discover what the C and the V are for us.

Compare this to the views expressed by some other authors that we can be happy in the here and now, whenever we so choose. Its about finding out that our emotions are just waves on the surface of a vast ocean and happiness can be found if we can connect with the peace that lies underneath those waves. Sounds like we don’t need to strive after all, but instead just stay mindfully connected with the activities we are already doing.

So, which is it? Or could it be all of the above? Perhaps being more present and mindful in our daily activities, striving to improve our conditions of life, and engaging in activities that are enjoyable for us (work or otherwise) can all contribute to a sense of well-being. One thing is clear, simply having more does not create happiness. In the words of Jim Carrey, “I wish everyone could get rich and famous and everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that’s not the answer.”

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