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Why should I be happy?


Why should I be happy?

Governments and policy makers are concerned over our individual happiness. This year, the UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) began compiling data for Cameron’s so-called happiness index. Meanwhile at the launch of ‘Action for Happiness’ members made a simple pledge: ‘to try to create more happiness in the world around them through the way they approach their lives’. Both assume that material advancement and economic development can’t buy you happiness. This seems obvious, or is it? Should happiness be our end goal? Is getting rich bad for our wellbeing? Should the government measure our happiness levels? Luke Gittos, a WORLDbytes reporter, investigates the happiness agenda and talks to the Director of Action for Happiness, Mark Williamson and Daniel Ben Ami, author of Ferraris for All.

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Related topics: Economy, Social Change

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Gary said:

I find it quite telling that the elite concern for our happiness coincides with a period of economic crisis when our material living standards are looking like they might get worse. The one thing they justify their happiness intervention with is that apparently increasing material wealth doesn’i make people happier. Lots of things can influence how happy or sad we are feeling day to day but that’s no reason to attempt to ‘de-materialise’ society by reying to substitute other measures for what a society should aim at. The other problem I have is that the happiness mongers invade our private sphere with cod psychology. Making and getting more stuff should be the proper, public aim of government. What’s wrong with them?

Shreya said:

Happiness is not a measurable statistic. Life is the great journey it is because it an inseparable mix of both happiness and sadness, and all range of emotion in between. People are driven to progress in both times of satisfaction and dissatisfaction. The government has the job of focusing on developing opportunities for its citizens, so that they can think for themselves and find happiness that is individual and specific to them. The development of economic opportunity is a good thing. It is not mutually exclusive from happiness, but rather the availability of opportunity for education, for growth and for social stability drives people to find greater satisfaction in their lives.

Blem said:

Thought provoking programme. I don’t always do things because I want to be happy. I went to uni because I was interested and curious about things and it really made me unhappy and it really made my brain hurt but I would do it again…happiness is not always the goal.

Sureha said:

The action for happiness is like a huge pacifier/dummy that the government want us all to suck on, to soothe, to calm…to pacify.

Hilda said:

This is a good step to promote well-being for the people from the government. It would be great if they can also grant privileges to others in jobs and businesses opportunities. It will be wrong to say I have a lot and I’m happy and you have little but try and be happy. Happiness can not be measured. There are a lot the government can do to the economic growth of its citizens by creating frame work for growth, whereby the people can use to benefit themselves according to Ben Ami. In a way economic growth can also be linked to happiness.

S Kelly said:

I do disagree with Camille below- who seems to be missing the point and worse suggesting we all need ‘emotional strength classes’ I think a happy pill would be a preferred option in that case. Its a fairly grotesque view of humanity as mainly weak, pathetic emotionally crippled individuals – god knows how they managed uprisings in the Middle East without a therapist. The key problem with Mr Happy and the whole Happiness insustry is the anti-consumption, anti-materialist, anti-growth gumph they are peddling- we have to recognise the dangerous underlying message not how genuine Mr happy is and if he is massageing your confidence.

Camille said:

I understand Luke’s worries that ‘the happiness police’ is one step along the road to mind control. I’m sure 1960s America would have LOVED to be able to just give civil rights activists a ‘happy pill’ and have them just happily put up with massive inequality. HOWEVER, what Mark seemed to be saying was more along the lines of not teaching people to be happy so much as teaching them to be strong so that they have the emotional resources needed to improve their lot. I understand both sides.

Amy said:

Intriguing report on two different viewpoints, In response to David Cameron’s happiness index (be happy with what you’ve got) it seems normal people have to sacrifice more then the government and the rich I agree with Daniel that peoples’ happiness is multi-dimensional so getting the measuring tape out to measure our happiness is a waste of time and money. The government should focus on supporting us through the recession. Contemporary society has always encouraged us to improve our looks, jobs and now it’s our happiness. I’ve always ignored the media so have focused on my own values, but at the same time I’m considerate of other people. Plus, we cannot always get what we want. Britain is well known for being resourceful; in the Second World War, people had no choice but to ration and did so with no complaint. So what has happened to England’s infamous ‘get on with it’ attitude?

kiran said:

interesting debate, i found it quite difficult to actually believe that the government is now not only telling us to stop spending our money on materialistic goods but also trying to control our feelings, something which is personal to the individual. i agree with Martyna that the government needs to focus more on making positive changes to the whole society and building up a society, rather measuring (somehow??)and focusing on the happiness of individuals. i think its a good idea of teaching people to deal with certain negative aspects of their life with a more positive attitude is helpful-like counselling, yet still i disagree with it as i do also believe that people grow through experience and the way they dealt with it themselves, rather then being TAUGHT how to feel and taught how to deal with every life experience. i can see some areas i agree with, but overall its not an idea i would want to have implemented in the UK (or anywhere!)

Jenny said:

Happiness depends on you; just you can make happy yourself. I think it’s so artificial to measure the happiness. It’s individual to have things what make you happy. It’s the only thing which people can do is to listen to themselves and to understand what exactly they need for happiness.

Nacia said:

economic growth it does help people having better lives in terms that all kind of entertainment and leisure centres will build up. One good point of the argument was that boroughs of London will be able to build up mental health support centres for encouraging people to deal with a difficult situations of their lives and move on with a positive way of thinking , instead of been sat there all miserable. From the other hand humanity is becoming more and more about materialism (everyone wants the new i-phone for instance). It might makes our lives more comfortable yet our individual happiness should matter the most. Been happy with what we have got does gives the benefit of having better relationships, be free-consumerism and materialism and focus on our personal wellbeing. Economic growth is important and benefits humanity as a whole but individual/mental growth counts the most and governments should stop promoting new life styles because it makes us want the ‘new’ lifestyle so we will feel more acceptable from our society and when we can’t get it we think that’s is something ‘wrong’ with ourselves so we end up been all stressed out and anxious and sad of what don’t we have.

Roman said:

Very good reporting by Luke. Mr Williamson effectively says that we should be more accepting of the situation we find ourselves in.
Now is that happiness or is that simply contentedness?
Throughout history we have seen that it’s the discontented in society that have striven for social change. Change and innovation in many things in life stems from a dissatisfaction with what is currently on offer. Does this then mean that by promoting contentedness do we not seek to change anything? Are they to tell us that Britain is a perfect society?
Radical social change is not something the government nor the elite desire. Of course why would they want to jeopardize and compromise on their wealth and power in this country? And at the same time have the audacity to tell ordinary people that they should diverge away from material wealth in a society that is intrinsically materialistic. The notion that this happiness index agenda is developed to foster a happier society is truly naïve and shows how out of touch this current government really is. First they engage in a rampage of cuts to our social care, services and education and then want to measure how happy we are about it? Ha. What I think is even more worrying is the fact that they introduce it in the first place. It all sounds a bit too Big Brother like to me. Is happiness even measurable? I think not.

Carol said:

I’m certainly not richer than 10 years ago, but I’m definitely happier. And as Daniel Ben-Ami says, it’s impossible to be 12 out of 10 happy, which is me if we go by Action for Happiness’ scale!
The government interfere way too much in our lives as it is; nobody, especially the government, has the right to tell me, or anyone else how to be happy.
A very good report by WORLDbytes, I really like the way Luke questions and argues with Mark Williamson throughout his interview.

Martyna said:

Why doesn’t the government focus on making positive changes in society rather than focusing on individual happiness. I think there are so many more things that the government can be focusing on! And are we actually being told by the government that we should be content, or should I say ‘happy’, with the terrible economic situation?!

Debating happiness on Worldbytes - said:

[…] This video features me debating Mark Williamson, the director of Action for Happiness, on the Worldbytes citizen TV channel. The presenter is Luke Gittos. Tags: happiness, media appearances, Worldwrite […]