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The Way to Happiness, a common sense guide to better living, is comprised of twenty-one precepts applicable to anyone regardless of race, color or creed. When one follows these principles and assists others to do so, one’s own happiness and survival can be improved.
For the first time, The Way to Happiness has been brought to life on film, complete and unabridged.
This DVD/Booklet also includes a bonus feature: public service announcements for all 21 precepts of The Way to Happiness.
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approaches have striven to define happiness and identify its sources.
While direct measurement of happiness presents challenges, tools have been developed by researchers. Positive psychology researchers use theoretical models that include describing happiness as consisting of positive emotions and positive activities, or that describe three kinds of happiness: pleasure (positive sensory experience), engagement (involvement with one’s family, work, romance and hobbies), and meaning (using personal strengths to serve some larger end).
Research has identified a number of attributes that correlate with happiness: relationships and social interaction, extraversion, marital status, employment, health, democratic freedom, optimism, endorphins released through physical exercise and eating chocolate, religious involvement, income and proximity to other happy people. Happiness is mediated through the release of so-called happiness hormones.
Philosophers and religious thinkers often define happiness in terms of living a good life, or flourishing, rather than simply as an emotion. Happiness in this older sense was used to translate the Greek Eudaimonia, and is still used in virtue ethics.
Happiness economics suggests that measures of public happiness should be used to supplement more traditional economic measures when evaluating the success of public policy.
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What Makes Us Happy
So, what has science learned about what makes the human heart sing? More than one might imagine — along with some surprising things about what doesn't ring our inner chimes. Take wealth, for instance, and all the delightful things that money can buy. Research by Diener, among others, has shown that once your basic needs are met, additional income does little to raise your sense of satisfaction with life. A good education? Sorry, Mom and Dad, neither education nor, for that matter, a high IQ paves the road to happiness. Youth? No, again. In fact, older people are more consistently satisfied with their lives than the young. And they're less prone to dark moods: a recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that people ages 20 to 24 are sad for an average of 3.4 days a month, as opposed to just 2.3 days for people ages 65 to 74. Marriage? A complicated picture: married people are generally happier than singles, but that may be because they were happier to begin with. Sunny days? Nope, although a 1998 study showed that Midwesterners think folks living in balmy California are happier and that Californians incorrectly believe this about themselves too. On the positive side, religious faith seems to genuinely lift the spirit, though it's tough to tell whether it's the God part or the community aspect that does the heavy lifting. Friends? A giant yes. A 2002 study conducted at the University of Illinois by Diener and Seligman found that the most salient characteristics shared by the 10% of students with the highest levels of happiness and the fewest signs of depression were their strong ties to friends and family and commitment to spending time with them. "Word needs to be spread," concludes Diener. "It is important to work on social skills, close interpersonal ties and social support in order to be happy."
Measuring Our Moods
Of course, happiness is not a static state. Even the happiest of people — the cheeriest 10% — feel blue at times. And even the bluest have their moments of joy. That has presented a challenge to social scientists trying to measure happiness. That, along with the simple fact that happiness is inherently subjective. To get around those challenges, researchers have devised several methods of assessment. Diener has created one of the most basic and widely used tools, the Satisfaction with Life Scale. Though some scholars have questioned the validity of this simple, five-question survey, Diener has found that it squares well with other measures of happiness, such as impressions from friends and family, expression of positive emotion and low incidence of depression.
Researchers have devised other tools to look at more transient moods. Csikszentmihalyi pioneered a method of using beepers and, later, handheld computers to contact subjects at random intervals. A pop-up screen presents an array of questions: What are you doing? How much are you enjoying it? Are you alone or interacting with someone else? The method, called experience sampling, is costly, intrusive and time consuming, but it provides an excellent picture of satisfaction and engagement at a specific time during a specific activity.
Just last month, a team led by Nobel Prize–winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman of Princeton University unveiled a new tool for sizing up happiness: the day-reconstruction method. Participants fill out a long diary and questionnaire detailing everything they did on the previous day and whom they were with at the time and rating a range of feelings during each episode (happy, impatient, depressed, worried, tired, etc.) on a seven-point scale. The method was tested on a group of 900 women in Texas with some surprising results. It turned out that the five most positive activities for these women were (in descending order) sex, socializing, relaxing, praying or meditating, and eating. Exercising and watching TV were not far behind. But way down the list was "taking care of my children," which ranked below cooking and only slightly above housework.
That may seem surprising, given that people frequently cite their children as their biggest source of delight — which was a finding of a TIME poll on happiness conducted last month. When asked, "What one thing in life has brought you the greatest happiness?," 35% said it was their children or grandchildren or both. (Spouse was far behind at just 9%, and religion a runner-up at 17%.) The discrepancy with the study of Texas women points up one of the key debates in happiness research: Which kind of information is more meaningful — global reports of well-being ("My life is happy, and my children are my greatest joy") or more specific data on enjoyment of day-to-day experiences ("What a night! The kids were such a pain!")? The two are very different, and studies show they do not correlate well. Our overall happiness is not merely the sum of our happy moments minus the sum of our angry or sad ones.(See the 10 saddest kids' movies.)
This is true whether you are looking at how satisfied you are with your life in general or with something more specific, such as your kids, your car, your job or your vacation. Kahneman likes to distinguish between the experiencing self and the remembering self. His studies show that what you remember of an experience is particularly influenced by the emotional high and low points and by how it ends. So, if you were to randomly beep someone on vacation in Italy, you might catch that person waiting furiously for a slow-moving waiter to take an order or grousing about the high cost of the pottery. But if you ask when it's over, "How was the vacation in Italy?," the average person remembers the peak moments and how he or she felt at the end of the trip.
The power of endings has been demonstrated in some remarkable experiments by Kahneman. One such study involved people undergoing a colonoscopy, an uncomfortable procedure in which a flexible scope is moved through the colon. While a control group had the standard procedure, half the subjects endured an extra 60 seconds during which the scope was held stationary; movement of the scope is typically the source of the discomfort. It turned out that members of the group that had the somewhat longer procedure with a benign ending found it less unpleasant than the control group, and they were more willing to have a repeat colonoscopy.