Desperately Seeking Happiness
Ask people what they want for themselves, their children, families and friends and there is a strong chance ‘happiness’ or to ‘be happy’ would figure highly in the list. In fact, happiness is of such importance that there is an annual World Happiness Report produced by Helliwell, J., Layard, R., & Sachs, J. (2019) World Happiness Report 2019, New York.
There is a real hunger for happiness. This could be heavily influenced by the media and social networking where everybody’s lives appear to the very epitome of happiness. Sadly, and more so frequently these days, people are trying to find happiness in food, alcohol as well as other drugs or activities that are not good for their overall well-being.
The first World Happiness Report released in April 2012 supported a UN High level meeting on “Wellbeing and Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm”. It presented the global data available on national happiness and reviewed related evidence from the emerging science of happiness, showing that the quality of people’s lives can be coherently, reliably, and validly assessed by a variety of subjective well-being measures, collectively referred to then and in subsequent reports as “happiness.” Questions are asked of participants about positive and negative life experiences that enables a score to be defined and this is averaged across a period of 3 years.
In the 2018 report, the UK is ranked 15th place for happiness in the world. Much of the Nordic region is ahead of us, with Finland the happiest place in the world. However, the rest of Europe are behind and the United States appears at 19th place and is falling in happiness. Happiness is linked to our giving of money and time. The report states that although the average income has increased in the US that there are worsening health conditions for much of the population; declining social trust; and declining confidence in government. There is also a mass epidemic of addictions and not just to drugs, but also social media, gaming and gambling.
The happier we are the more we give, but we are also more likely to engage in our community as well as being more likely to vote. Happy people are more likely to vote, but it did also point out that in extreme circumstances this may not be the case and gave examples Donald Trump being voted in as president and the UK voting for Brexit. In both cases people voted because they were unhappy.
With so many people desperately seeking happiness, how can we as a Church address this in our local communities? Christian enquiry course are great for people actively seeking faith (which can lead to happiness), but people are becoming increasingly sceptical of church. One of the features of The Happiness Lab is that it suggests a number of experiments to try each week, such as giving gifts and being an active member of your community. This gives people space to try out different ideas and discuss them as a group each week. It’s within this ‘safe space’ of mutual interest that we are able to share with others our personal experience of how our faith impacts our lives.