Is happiness overrated?

Ed Diener: We actually think it's underrated, rather than overrated. We think the reason everybody wants to be happy is because it's pleasant. It just feels good. We're saying, it's not just that. If you're happy, you function better. You're more sociable. You're a better citizen. You do volunteer work. You're healthier. All these things. Conversely, if you look at really unhappy people, angry and depressed people, they don't normally function well. Angry people are disruptive in group work. Depressed people, they're withdrawn, they have no energy. Nothing sounds good to them.

Unhappy Places
According to World Values Surveys from 1995 to 2007, the 10 unhappiest places on Earth are:
1. Zimbabwe, 2. Armenia, 3. Moldova, 4. Belarus, 5. Ukraine, 6. Albania, 7. Iraq, 8. Bulgaria, 9. Georgia, 10. Russia.

Sonja Lyubomirsky: A recent review of all the available literature has revealed that happiness does indeed have numerous positive by-products, which appear to benefit not only individuals, but families, communities, and the society at large. The benefits of happiness include higher income and superior work outcomes (e.g., greater productivity and higher quality of work); larger social rewards (e.g., more satisfying and longer marriages, more friends, stronger social support, and richer social interactions); more activity, energy, and flow; better physical health (e.g., a bolstered immune system, lowered stress levels, and less pain); and even longer life. The literature, my colleagues and I have found, also suggests that happy individuals are more creative, helpful, charitable, and self-confident; have better self-control; and show greater self-regulatory and coping abilities.

Published with permission of the National Geographic Society from the book Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way by Dan Buettner. Copyright© 2010 Dan Buettner. Available wherever books are sold.


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