The Summer of Happiness
If we had an unlimited amount of time on this earth, it would take a big chunk of that time to read all of the books, articles, websites and blogs devoted to the subject of happiness. But that doesn’t stop the flow, or end the curiosity of those of us who are intensely interested in the subject. The cover of the July 8/15 Summer Double Issue of TIME magazine is “The Pursuit of Happiness.” It is a five part, 15 page section; including the lead article by Jeffrey Kluger, “The Happiness of Pursuit.” (This is also the title of a quirky, engaging book by Cornell University psychology professor Shimon Edelman.)
The special section also includes a happiness poll and a look at happiness around the world (including the transformation of Finland from the suicide capital of the world into a much happier country). Jon Meacham, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and former editor of competitor Newsweek, contributes the historically-based article “Free to be Happy,” about the roots of American happiness, especially the contribution of Thomas Jefferson, the subject of Meacham’s latest book, Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power. Finally, there is a colorful, two page ‘game of happiness,’ about the effect of areas such as childhood, aging, work and lifestyle on our capacity to be happy.
TIME has tackled this subject extensively before, in January 2005, on the science of happiness. And there is still a lot to learn from some of the superstars of happiness studies, such as Tal Ben-Shahar, Ed Diener, Shawn Achor, Sonja Lyubomirsky, Daniel Gilbert and others. Happiness is also closely tied to the burgeoning field of positive psychology. On June 27-30, the third IPPA World Congress on Positive Psychology was held in Los Angeles, featuring such luminaries of the genre as Roy Baumeister, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Martin Seligman and Barbara Fredrickson.
The combination of happiness and positive psychology has also become powerful in the world of work. The TIME ‘game of happiness’ notes the effects of money, self-employment and commuting on how happy we are, or can expect to be. The recent Fast Company article “Happiness Means Creativity: One Company’s Bet on Positive Psychology,” examines the positive psychology program being implemented for all employees of the advertising agency Havas London Worldwide.
If all this attention on happiness is making you uneasy, or pressured to feel and think a particular way, there are still alternate routes to fulfillment, as expressed by Guardian columnist Oliver Burkeman, author of The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, whom I have written about several times.
Is happiness on your mind this summer? Do these and similar books and articles have an effect on your thinking?