Friday, May 15, 2009

What Makes Us Happy?

The Atlantic Monthly magazine has an article about "happiness research"...

What allows people to work, and love, as they grow old? By the time the Grant Study men had entered retirement, Vaillant, who had then been following them for a quarter century, had identified seven major factors that predict healthy aging, both physically and psychologically.

Employing mature adaptations was one. The others were education, stable marriage, not smoking, not abusing alcohol, some exercise, and healthy weight. Of the 106 Harvard men who had five or six of these factors in their favor at age 50, half ended up at 80 as what Vaillant called “happy-well” and only 7.5 percent as “sad-sick.” Meanwhile, of the men who had three or fewer of the health factors at age 50, none ended up “happy-well” at 80. Even if they had been in adequate physical shape at 50, the men who had three or fewer protective factors were three times as likely to be dead at 80 as those with four or more factors.

What factors don’t matter? Vaillant identified some surprises. Cholesterol levels at age 50 have nothing to do with health in old age. While social ease correlates highly with good psychosocial adjustment in college and early adulthood, its significance diminishes over time. The predictive importance of childhood temperament also diminishes over time: shy, anxious kids tend to do poorly in young adulthood, but by age 70, are just as likely as the outgoing kids to be “happy-well.” Vaillant sums up: “If you follow lives long enough, the risk factors for healthy life adjustment change. There is an age to watch your cholesterol and an age to ignore it.”

"What would you do right now if you learned that you were going to die in ten minutes? Would you race upstairs and light that Marlboro you've been hiding in your sock drawer since the Ford administration? Would you waltz into your boss's office and present him with a detailed description of his personal defects? Would you drive out to that steakhouse near the new mall and order a T-bone, medium rare, with an extra side of the really bad cholesterol? Hard to say, of course, but of all the things you might do in your final ten minutes, it's a pretty safe bet that few of them are things you actually did today." from Stumbling On Happiness

..."is a book about a very simple but powerful idea. What distinguishes us as human beings from other animals is our ability to predict the future--or rather, our interest in predicting the future. We spend a great deal of our waking life imagining what it would be like to be this way or that way, or to do this or that, or taste or buy or experience some state or feeling or thing. We do that for good reasons: it is what allows us to shape our life. And it is by trying to exert some control over our futures that we attempt to be happy. But by any objective measure, we are really bad at that predictive function. We're terrible at knowing how we will feel a day or a month or year from now, and even worse at knowing what will and will not bring us that cherished happiness. Gilbert sets out to figure what that's so: why we are so terrible at something that would seem to be so extraordinarily important?" Malcolm Gladwell


1.) Stumbling On Happiness
2.) The happiest places to live Denmark!
3.) What makes us happy?


tweetey30 said...

Hey check you e-mail!!!!! Or just give me a call later this evening.. We are looking at making a trip your way tomorrow...

Gardenia said...

Love this post! Interesting that many people find their way to "happy" finally, even after not so happy youth.

Then sometimes I think an added factor is "determination" (to be happy) - there are times we have to work at it.

If I were to get news of dying very very soon -the first thing I would do is write a letter telling everyone how much I love them!

This was fascinating, Candy!

I've run across some recent studies that are not giving cholesterol so much importance...wonder how that will play out?

Candy Minx said...

Hey Tweetey, great to be able to get together!

Gardenia, I thought that video was really good huh? I think for some people it is very difficult for them to find peace and happiness in life. Maybe it's because we have so much focus on material successes as yardsticks or because sometimes peopel are just screwed up...but I liked this report and study because it kind of showed how perseverence and attitude have a lot to do with happiness.

I don't know what to say about the big picture it seems we need to avoid processed foods (canned packaged foods, bread noodles rice are all processed food) but it's hard to avoid those foods, measure cholesterol etc.

I like how the fellow in video says ....

"happiness is love"

Ain't that the truth!

Gardenia said...

Love helps - come to think of it, I have not ever known a person who didn't have someone in their lives to love that was happy. I used to work with incapacitated elderly - through the courts - so many bitter people, no one to care for them in older years - many times I stood by a grave, the only person there besides the officiant - wondering how these people got to be so alone.

Then sometimes I think instead of finding our own happiness from within, we expect others to create it for us - that is a recipe doomed to fail.

Candy Minx said...

Gardenia, there is an interesing chapter in the book "Outliers" where a medical study of a Pennsylvania town noticed that no one had heart disease and th study found out the reason...? A strong social and friend/family support. Being friendly happy social neighbours ...being friends prevented heart disease. i actually recommend the whole book "Outliers" it was really cool.

Gardenia said...

I've read some reviews on "Outliers" and almost sent for it a couple of weeks ago. Maybe I will just do that - I have books lying all over the house that I am simultaneously reading - is that a sign of adult ADHD?