Thursday, July 11, 2013

Time Magazine: The Pursuit of Happiness (Part I)

The July 8, 2013 issue of Time focused on happiness. their feature was split into 5 parts, which included essays and infographics.

(Aside: This issue also included a summer reading round-up, which I always enjoy)

Part I: The Happiness of Pursuit, by Jeffrey Kluger

Kluger posits that, the United States being largely populated by immigrants, Americans, by way of nature, nurture, or some combination, inherited a drive, or at least a willingness, to keep looking for the next big thing.

(Note: This obviously doesn't account for people whose ancestors were brought here against their will, or who were here for thousands of years before all these immigrants showed up. Disclosure: I am descended from European immigrants. I'm pretty sure one of them was actually born on the boat en route.)

But anyway, this hypothetically means that Americans are wired to pursue happiness.  It is right there in our founding document, after all.

And yet, we tend not to know what the next big thing is, or how to get at it, so we buy stuff, and when that doesn't work, we don't see any other options. Mental health problems are on the rise.

(Note: Is that because of under-reporting in the past, over-medicating today, the (still too-slow) destigmatization of mental illness that allows people to seek help, or an actual uptick in mental illness?)

And we don't just spend money on medication (assuming we even can -- wow, I sound political today!). Self-help is a huge industry, one I'm wading in just by keeping this blog.

And we also have trouble dealing with emotions -- our own or other people's -- when we're busy or preoccupied. Which, who isn't?

Also, whether or not money can buy happiness, lack of it doesn't help. Maybe not the way we assume, though -- turns out, the richest person in the poor neighborhood is likely to be happier than the poorest person in the rich neighborhood, because we do, by nature, keep up with the Joneses. Social media has similar effects, and creates an echo chamber -- you're seeing the best aspects of everyone's life, all at once, and comparing them with the mundane aspects of your own -- and then only posting the best aspects of your own life right back!

Kluger ends his article on a happier (ha) note, by pointing out that every time things got bad, the United States pulled through to be better than before. We pursued happiness, and a few more people caught it each time.

Wow, this is a lot longer than I anticipated, so I'll follow up on the other parts of this feature another day.  In the meantime, talk to me about the pursuit of happiness!

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