By Pallavi Bhatacharya November 2003 Will owning a new Mercedes Benz, or taking a vacation in Switzerland make you a lot happier? Will breaking up with a loved one or faring poorly in an examination add to your misery? Not necessarily, according to a research conducted by Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert, psychologist Tim Wilson of the University of Virginia, economist George Loewenstein and Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman. Human beings tend to predict the outcome of an unforeseen venture or event both qualitatively and quantitatively in terms of negativity and positivity—and in most cases they are wrong. Try and reminisce on your own life experiences. How long have you really held on to the grief of the death of a loved one? Tears can’t fall forever. On getting a job promotion and a fatter pay cheque, how long have you rejoiced? You could not have gone on throwing parties week after week to celebrate the event. Yet, if we introspect, most of us will find that we had magnified the intensity of emotions associated with these happenings when they were yet to occur. According to this research, affective forecasting is immature and often misleading. This is not to say that an unpleasant event like a theft of a large sum of money won’t make us sad, but it does not mean that we’ll be devastated forever. Similarly, adding material pleasures may make life more exciting for a while but will never make everything perfect for us. Has the binge shopping ever helped beyond a few moments? A survey conducted for the research proves statistically that the test participants made multiple errors while anticipating the intensity of the emotional response to future circumstances. Later they confessed that the bad events seemed less tragic and were usually short lived than predicted. Good events, on the other hand, proved rather ephemeral. This only proves the value of being ever-present in the here and the now, and the spiritual value of retaining equanimity and inner balance under all circumstances—good or bad. The happiest country! We have tired of explaining ourselves that money doesn’t buy happiness. If we believe in figures rather than feelings, here is the proof. In a new study of more than 65 countries published in UK’s New Scientist magazine, it has been found that the happiest people in the world live in Nigeria. Nigeria, Mexico, Venezuela, El Salvador, Puerto Rico top the happiness list while Russia, Armenia and Romania are the least happy countries. People in Latin America, Western Europe and North America were said to be happier than people in Eastern Europe and Russia. It is important to note here that the factors that make people happy may vary from one country to another. While personal success and self-expression were seen as the most important in the US, in Japan, happiness is about fulfilling the expectations of family and society. The survey is a worldwide investigation of socio-cultural and political change conducted about every four years by an international network of social scientists. It includes questions about how happy people are and how satisfied they are with their lives. New Scientist mentions that although such surveys are not new, they are being increasingly taken into account by policy makers. A happiness checklist once again: – Have happy relationships – Value good friendships – Desire less – Do someone a good turn – Keep faith (religious or not) – Stop comparing your looks with others – Grow old gracefully – Don’t worry if you’re not a genius
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