Happiness and Unhappiness

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 — Week of 2 Epiphany (Year One)

Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, 304

[Go to http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

(Book of Common Prayer, p. 944)

Psalms 26, 28 (morning) // 36, 39 (evening)

Isaiah 44:9-20

Ephesians 4:17-32

Mark 3:19b-35

(sorry to be late posting; our Internet went out last night)

It seemed to me today that each reading said something about the condition of happiness (and unhappiness). The epistle is full of advice about leaving an old way of life with its lusts and greed and embracing a new life. In a delightful verse thieves are encouraged to give up stealing and to work honestly “so as to have something to share with the needy.” The gospel relates some unhappy divisions between Jesus and his home so he redefines the meaning of family to embrace a wider context. Isaiah writes a sharp satire about the futility of idolatry — mere things don’t satisfy, he says.

There is quite a bit of research saying that poverty creates profound unhappiness. But once people have their basic needs covered (about $40,000 per year for a family of four — double the poverty rate), researchers say “increased affluence hardly affects happiness.” Rich countries aren’t happier than poor ones. And the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans are about as happy as Maasai herdsmen in East Africa. There is a rush we get when we get something, they say, but it doesn’t last — things don’t bring lasting happiness.

“Envy and dissatisfaction come from lacking what others possess, but coming into possession of those things doesn’t not confer happiness,” according to Gregg Easterbrook, author of Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse. “There’s amazingly little that will raise your happiness for a long time,” says economist George Loewenstein. Although American income in after-tax constant dollars has doubled since 1957, the percentage of Americans who call themselves “very happy” has declined.

The biggest producers of unhappiness — not having a job when you want one, even if you’re well off, is number one. Also “having a bad relationship with your significant other or having children beset with problems.”

An Institute studying happiness says that happiness is a byproduct of helping others. For people of means, that usually entails sharing their wealth, says a financial planner.

Here’s the Top Ten “How to be Happier” list from researcher David G. Myers:

1. Realize that enduring happiness doesn’t come from financial success.

2. Take control of your time.

3. Act happy.

4. Seek work and leisure activities that engage your skills.

5. Get regular aerobic exercise.

6. Give your body the sleep it wants.

7. Give priority to close relationships.

8. Focus beyond self.

9. Be grateful.

10. Nurture your spiritual self.

Happy Day!

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