“In pursuit of happiness” is a great headline. Happiness is something we all strive for. A recent search on Google trends, shows searches on the topic of ‘happiness’, far exceed those on ‘mindfulness’ and that numbers have been rising since 2006. People are literally searching for happiness and asking Google to help them find it!
Humankind wants to be happy. There seems to be a growing yearning for this. What does this say about us as a species? Are we all like the Rolling Stones singing, “Can’t get no satisfaction”? or can we find the happiness we desperately long for?
We’re searching for happiness in any way we can and it is only in the last few decades that we have been able to measure more accurately how much searching goes on and where we go to find what we are looking for. An interesting piece of research has come to light that suggests our pursuit of happiness may be leading us to search in the wrong places.
The New York Times reports the work of film-maker Belic.
“Belic decided to investigate why the U.S., though the world’s wealthiest country, ranked nowhere near the top of a global survey on happiness. His investigation, ranging from the psychology labs to the shantytown home of a rickshaw puller in Kolkata, India, became the film “Happy.”
The scientific research in the film includes the work of Ed Diener, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois , and Richard J. Davidson, psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin’s Lab for Affective Neuroscience. The research showed that a specific area of the brain, the left prefrontal cortex, enlarges when a person is happy. But the circumstances that led to that happy state were surprising. He found that happier people had goals that were intrinsic, such as compassion, friendship and a sense of connectedness with one’s community and not the set of goals usually perceived to lead to happiness: extrinsic goals such as money, power, fame and social status.”
“What we discovered that the science is saying is that what makes people happy also makes the world a better, healthier place,” he said. “These are taught out of us as we are trained to make money, and to compete with each other.”