I am not sure if it is widely known but for some time the nations happiness levels have been monitored by the government, along with the usual economic indicators such as employment levels, cost of living and wages. It seems that monitoring how the population feels isn’t unique to this country, others take the well-being of their own nationals just as seriously as they believe it can impact the economic sufficiency and stability.
The recent analysis undertaken in this country shows that we are experiencing high levels of employment, wages continuing to grow faster than inflation and household spending is rising. However, despite these factors people are not reporting increases to their wellbeing, leading the researchers to conclude ‘Britons getting richer…. but not any happier’. It’s long been suggested that money does not buy happiness, so the outcome is not a surprise.
So, what is happiness and how can we measure it for ourselves? I conducted my own ‘dip-stick’ research amongst friends and colleagues asking them to define happiness. The common themes were “having good health and feeling content”, “feeling calm, having a sense of wellbeing” and “being at ease with yourself; at home and work”. All of which seemed perfectly reasonable and in line with the definitions I have come across online, ‘happiness is when your life fulfils your needs, it is a feeling of contentment, that life is just as it should be.’
Taking my research to another level I turned to the philosopher and scientist Aristotle. He had quite a bit to say on this topic but concluded that happiness ‘depends on acquiring a moral character, where one displays the virtues of courage, generosity, justice, friendship, and citizenship in one's life.’
So, what have I learnt about happiness? Given that life isn’t always ‘just as it should be’ then some days we’ll be happier than others and ultimately happiness is down to us and the life we choose to lead.