This dear land of mine – Britain – this country came 19th in the new World Happiness Report. That’s about right. Any higher and we might have been embarrassed.
We here in Britain may hold the key to long-term happiness, according to Dr Seligman.
Now come on Doc.
He goes on… Our resilience in adversity suggests that, despite apperances, we are optimists.
More about that below.
Positive Psychology Father
So who is this guy?
Dr Martin Seligman is the father of Positive Psychology.
In 1998 when he was made president of the American Psychological Association (APA) he declared that psychologists needed to study what made happy people happy.
He noted “The most important thing, the most general thing I learned, was that psychology was half-baked, literally half-baked. We had baked the part about mental illness […] The other side’s unbaked, the side of strength, the side of what we’re good at.”
Studies since then by Seligman and other psychologists have explored the effects of positive emotions and the ways they affect health, performance and overall life satisfaction.
When Cameron Was Around:
Whitehall statisticians began happiness surveys on the instigation of former prime minister David Cameron in 2011, as he looked for other measures besides GDP to measure how the country was doing.
Why, Cameron asked, was Britain, like the rest of the developed world, so obsessed with Gross Domestic Product (GDP)? What did this cold, clinical measure of industrial output have to do with how happy or fulfilled anyone actually felt at any given time?
Why not measure GWB (General Well Being) instead?
He argued that, surely, that was more important to people.
Now Look at This – Subjectivity and Culture
These surveys depend on subjective self-reporting, not to mention eliding cultural differences.
In Japan there is a cultural bias against boasting of one’s good fortune, and in East Asia the most common response, by far, is to report one’s happiness as average.
In Scandinavia, meanwhile, there is immense societal pressure to tell everyone how happy you are, right up to the moment when you’re sticking your head in the oven.
Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland – in the top spots, suggesting that happiness is strongly correlated to having really good underfloor heating.
The United States ranked 14th in the report. Comments please you guys – you are ahead of the UK
The UK came in 19th, just above Chile, a poor performance until you factor in the possibility that Britons would have been ashamed to finish any higher – that breaking seven on a one to 10 overall happiness scale would be crowing. A 6.714 will do, thank you.
Carol Midgley wrote about this in the Times
The British Method For Being Happy – Keep Calm and Expect The Worse.
She says and I totally agree:
We have an inbuilt guard against unhappiness and it comprises three elements:
1)never saying what we mean.
2)never engaging in social confrontation
3)dourly expecting everything to be crap so that when it is you are never disappointed.
Brits hide their secret optimism via language namely in understatement.
“Mustn’t grumble” – means they are elated
“I’ve been worse, I suppose”, they are at death’s door.
Experience “not bad” we mean it is very good.
Meal “disappointing”, it’s quite possible three of the party died in agony from food poisoning.
Yes there is a British form of optimism: hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
Off to the pub for a therapeutic beer with my mates – now that is happiness.
Dan Gilbert – TED Talk – The Surprising Science Of Happiness
You need 22 minutes to watch this – but it is a great TED talk from 2004. Dan wrote the book Stumbling on Happiness. He argues that us human beings are forever wrong about predicting what will make us happy.