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Measuring Happiness And Influences On Happiness Philosophy Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 1828 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Measuring happiness is a subjective study in determining what values that people use to consider themselves truly happy. Happiness in general depends on many factors: the person’s expectations, the uncertainty of the result, how much control a person feels he or she has over the result, comparison with other results, alternative ways to get a result, how a person values the results and the person’s goals in general (Hewson 41). How happy a person is can depend on what the person expected from any given outcome in relation to events. For example, if the happiness factor is measured by how much value is seen in an object or event, as minus how much value was expected from the same result, then, there is a gap between what the person got and what the person expected to get. This is somewhat like the profit measured in a business deal, Profit = Income – Costs (Hewson 43). Therefore, deciding if a person is happy or not depends on whether the same person sees or values an event as positive or negative, if the result was expected and anticipated, and if the result made the person satisfied or not after the event has passed.

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Our culture measures happiness by how successful a person is in relation to money earned. In this way, there is a value put on the idea of being successful, having money in the bank and having “made it.” But many scientists state that once a person has escaped poverty, the more money he or she accumulates will not necessarily buy more happiness for the person, and there will not be a value relation on happiness (Chatzky 28). It is fascinating to note that “there’s little difference in the overall happiness of millionaires and the middle class….if you are going to spend your money in search of greater happiness, you’re better off buying experiences rather than things” (Chatzky 28). Many people may agree that our experiences mellow and become more pleasant over time, and even if they are unreasonably embellished, they are still pleasant to recall. In this way, it is considered valuable to have had a relaxing vacation, or spend time with family or explore a new place in the person’s home town.

Some tips to happiness are to find bliss in everyday items by paying attention to the smaller aspects of life, and enjoying the anticipation of preparing for and experiencing a new event. In this way, people can appreciate and measure the value of finding joy in everyday tasks, and living well even with less money.

Even biology and genetics can contribute to achieving and finding the value of happiness in our lives. Because the human brain is only 38% developed at birth (unlike other mammals, which are 98% developed at birth), humans need nurturing, enjoy grappling with ideas, sharing their thoughts and improving their education to allow them the essentials for finding happiness in their lives (Foran 573). This is valuable because most people prefer to be challenged, and look for ways to push themselves to achieve, whether in extreme sports, or in working overtime at their jobs to experience the satisfaction of finishing a project on time – there is definite value in achievements that lead to a feeling of having conquered something.

Happiness is also measured best by being assessed on how people feel on average over a long period of time (Layard 25). It is necessary to study the moods of the masses and determine if their feelings are happy or not, as well as determining if they place a high value on those feelings in general. In one study, women were seen to be happiest at meal times and at the end of the day, which confirms that many people are happiest when they are alone, without the company of others.

When looking at the happiness factor of different countries, it is seen that if the average income per person is less than $15,000 per year, any extra money gained will tend to make the person happier. But if the average income is well above this level, a person’s happiness “seems to be independent of income…the average American is much richer than the average Icelander or Dane, but also less happy” (Layard 25).

The reason behind the disparity is that people are always comparing themselves to others, and the stakes are continually rising, keeping real happiness just out of their reach. The two factors most people use to measure their happiness in regards to family income, is that people compare the income that they receive to the income that other people receive, to see if they “measure up” to or make more money than the other person does. The reference group used by most people is usually a neighbor or group of friends, as opposed to making comparisons to celebrated figures with abnormally high salaries.

People also value the time they have to relax to pursue their leisure activities such as: socializing, exercising, meditation, watching TV, preparing food, childcare, internet/mail, doing housework, or commuting to work (Layard 26). These small tasks are what make up the average person’s day, but any one task on its own would be considered valuable as a tool for relaxation.

For people who consider themselves happy, the absence of any co-variation over time, in regards to their economic situation maintaining stability, would indicate that the measure of happiness lacks validity (Hellevik 243). For people living in Norway, for example, note that their health and family situation have a stronger effect on their happiness, more than any other factor. Happiness was measured as a value in the person’s life, if the person did not have to worry about his or her subjective well-being. This meant that the person was less fearful regarding crime, burglary, theft or assaults, terrorism or any other kind of environmental threat to the country (Norway) in general if the person was in good health and had strong familial ties.

It has been said in songs and ballads that the simple pleasures of life are the ones that produce the highest factor of joy for those experiencing them (Sikka 515). In bygone primitive societies, humans living tribal family lives felt the deep feelings of being within a loving group, and feeling happy with the connection to others. It is also said that people experienced satisfaction in primitive times, and felt happy in the way common to any living creature, since “human beings…were destined by God for a life of harmony and innocent contentment” (Sikka 517).

Humans also find value in the necessity for labor and physical activity. By using physical effort, the use of the senses, and exercising understanding, attention, memory and decision, this makes up the person’s spirit or inner life-force, allowing the reward of such activities to bring happiness and joy (Sikka 526).

It is true that happiness is measured in different ways in other cultures. In non-Western cultures, happiness is considered a vague notion which has a general meaning of the person experiencing positive factors and a good life. In fact, the word “happiness” did not appear in the Chinese language until recently, with happiness being measured as high if the person had “longevity, prosperity, health, peace, virtue and a comfortable death as the best values in life” (Luo 479). Asian cultures believe that, according to the Yin-Yang theory, there are two universal concepts or opposite forms of nature which control all creations. These forces are constantly changing and evolving, and it is the basis of Taoism theory, which states that well-being is achieved with balance within these forces of nature. The Chinese also believe in dualism, that is where two systems represent the wisdom of the laboring masses and the wisdom of the educated elite, offering different ethics for common and learned people. This wisdom would compare the happiness quotient of a common person to an educated person and the values would be considered subjective for each group. Also, Confucian philosophy shows that the life of each individual person is only a link to the person’s ancestors, and each person continues where the ancestors left off (Luo 479). This idea is more than simple reincarnation, it puts the family at the center of a person’s life, and makes maintaining relationships in the family unit a priority and measure of happiness.

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People also value happiness by valuing the health of their family. This is because having better health allows a person to live more happily, earn more money at a job, and spend more on health care for the benefit of better health benefits overall (de Mello & Tiongson 594). If a family member (or the person him or herself) is in poor health, this will affect the calculation one would make to determine and measure overall happiness.

The happiest people when surveyed on a 10-point life-satisfaction scale, were those who actually earned less money than slightly less happier respondents (Stinchfield 56). These results show that it is an unrealistic expectation to be “superhappy,” and instead it is more realistic to be somewhat happy with life in general. For people who are moderately happy, it means that they are likelier to try harder to change their lives for the better, such as finding a new job in a different career or performing better at school.

When deciding what really matters, it is necessary to prioritize, look for the real meaning of matters or mysteries, seek to nurture a positive attitude, connect with the spirit and inner being, ask if happiness is possible, look for the meaning of life in the right places and being kind to others – which all serve to find value in life and happiness in a person’s life in general (Ardell 1).

Who among us is happy and has found the value of happiness? The unhappiest countries in the world, as determined by a study by Borooah performed in 2006, were the former countries of the Soviet Union and the Eastern European bloc, since seventeen of the 20 unhappiest countries were in this category (Borooah 483). The other three unhappiest countries were Zimbabwe (because of a repressive dictator), Iran (a theocracy) and China (a communist country) (Borooah 483). The happiest countries of the world (at the time of this study) were Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA, with Latin American countries running as close second, and including South Africa, Tanzania, Nigeria, and a few Asian countries such as Singapore and Vietnam. Therefore, the measurement of happiness globally depends on the value that the person deciding on happiness puts on the events experienced daily in life. People have the choice to become happy, value everyday experiences and seek positive meanings from their lives for a richer experience and higher quality of life overall.


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