Thursday, December 13, 2012

How do you measure happiness?

An article in the StarTribune, Smiling all the way to the bank, claimed that according to a "wealth sentiment monitor" the average income that would make people happy in the United States is $161,810.  Really?

It makes sense that a company specializing in the area of investments would suggest that an accumulation of money can buy happiness.  However quite to the contrary I've heard scores of people talk about when they were happiest was when they were "dirt poor", perhaps still in school or recent graduates and living on a shoestring budget.  They were living life fully, not stressed by house payments, running in the rat race, etc.  On the flip side, how often we've heard about winners of the lottery having a dreadful experience with all of the added stress and pressures provided by their sudden wealth.

I dare say that a state of well-being and contentment aren't directly linked to financial wealth.  I recall hearing a youth groups share of their mission trip to Mexico of how happy and joyful so many of the kids were.  Despite being extremely poor by US standards they were rich in family and community.  Our health and engagement in a community seem would be far better happiness indicators of happiness.

The natural environment also impacts our sense of happiness. Fresh air, clean water are immeasurably important to our sense of well being. Paradoxically it has been noted that we are as rich as our ability to do without things.  That's likely not something your wealth enhancement advisor will tell you.

One might also ask if "happiness" is among the more important aspects of one's life to measure.  Consider the lives of great leaders, inventors, musicians, artists, scientists, etc.  Much creativity and productivity comes in people's lives during times of  adversity and when we are not always "happy".

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