Posted by: grokscience | January 19, 2011

Behavioral Happiness

Are some people intrinsically happier than others or do they just exhibit happier behaviors?  On this show, Shawn Achor discussed the science of happiness.

Don’t worry… 😉




  1. If anyone is interested I wrote an overview of the podcast there:

    Keep on groking! 🙂

  2. Interesting how I seem to listen to happiness stuff in last few days. If I didn’t know better, I’d think gods are tying to tell me something. In the other, they were talking about Bhutan having national happiness index (like GDP). But they are Buddhists so their approach is less than scientific. I hope they can use Prof. Shawn’s research to further their cause.

    Philosophically, though, it seems free people tend to be happier. Most of us are slaves; we must work each day and must be careful of what we say and do. Otherwise, we’d lose our jobs and starve and even imprisoned (eg. buy the wrong drug). So if one thinks objectively, can anyone really feel happy knowing that their life is one heartbeat away from being destitute, and they cannot do things without big brother’s approval? I don’t know about other people, but I think about $100 million would buy my freedom (work becomes a hobby, can afford to buy politicians to be able to say and do anything without thrown in jail, and so on). As such, I hope I can do my happiness experiment one day.

    I suppose another way is to not think about the consequences of losing a job and pretend the big brother doesn’t exist. But “ignorance is bliss” doesn’t work for me.

    Some questions for folks who read this. If you had all the money in the world, what would you be doing? Are you currently doing that? If not, are you really happy? I posed these questions on some of my potential dates, and I never heard from them again. I hope you use these powerful questions wisely and with caution.

  3. David, Thanks for that concise overview. I printed it up for the ladies in my office & we’re going to actually test if this will actually work.

    Mik, my darling… If your dates can’t handle these questions, then they’re not worth your time. You’re better off. That being said, if I had abundant wealth, I would embark on a roadtrip around the world–traveling to/through as many countries as possible. Do I think that we can be poor & happy? Possibly… Only if ignorance is bliss. In other words, you can’t know that you’re poor. Basically, you need to be sheltered from a capitalist world. If you know that you’re one of the “Have-nots” you’ll always want what you don’t have.

    So the happiness experiment starts today…

    • There’s no question that one can have short term happiness. Having sex, motorcycling/bicycling, walking the cat/dog while listening to GSS are some of the ways I feel happy. Shawn’s approach probably could enhance my short term happiness. I might even give it a shot. But once those moments are over, it’s back to the grind: work to pay for roof, food, taxes, retirement and generally keep one’s mouth shut and don’t stand out.

      I don’t think this is related to capitalism. It’s inherently a natural phenomenon. To be truly happy, one must be able to at least afford to buy his/her freedom, then pursue whatever endeavor that brings happiness. In today’s market, IMO, it’s around $100M for me. For some who are not so adventurous (ie, don’t have to buy politicians), it could be as little as $10M to be able to afford a decent house, food for life, reasonable health care, do things like travel and walk the dog at leisure without always chased by time and say and do things not too controversial.

      As a percentage of one’s life, how much are we happy for a typical income? One can ignore the retirement fund and spend all their money on being happy now (traveling, etc), and even then it won’t amount to much. Is it 1 hour a day? 2 weeks a year? Take 1 year off after saving for 10 years? Then the dread of not having enough in retirement savings will offset whatever short term joy they had. Unless, of course, one can bury his/her head in the sand and ignorance is bliss.

      When things are considered objectively, slaves (most of us, including the people in socialist and communist countries) shouldn’t feel happy. Instead, we should be unhappy enough to FREEly strive a little bit harder for the PURSUIT of happiness without actually being happy. That’s how progress is made and society can function. Founders of USA were pretty smart people to have known and wrote it as such. Free slave is not an oxymoron in this sense. I might’ve been more blunt, and I’d never hear from my potential dates (subjects / people) again.

  4. This podcast came along at just the moment I needed it. Thanks.

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