Apparently, there is a happiness craze in America. This does not mean that Americans are reporting greater amounts of happiness or fulfillment, nor are they less depressed or healthier. What they are is buying more products related to the topic of happiness than ever before. In the last three months Amazon has released more than 1000 books on the subject of happiness, how to get it, keep it, and make it work for you. The really great irony to this is that at the same time that we have turned our attention to the subject of happiness for our health and well being, a new line of research has emerged indicating that empty, selfish, things-based happiness is no better for our health than misery. It turns out that only benevolent, meaningful happiness has any real impact on our blood pressure or gene expression and that the lottery-winning, Las Vegas partying, stick it to people you hate kind of happiness is really kind of bad for us. That kind of happiness, it turns out, is like the fast food of the soul, it seems good on the front end, but does nothing to sustain or nourish you in the long run.
I find this research satisfying. For a long time I have struggled with the nagging suspicion that perhaps all those people who seem happy but really make their living through unethical means, or are mean, or steal things or who accumulate way more things than they can afford and walk away from paying for it are really winning. I have been worried that purchased happiness or happiness obtained in spite of other peoples suffering, or the happiness of mean people was just as good as any other kind of happiness. If this is the case then where would our incentive to be good people or do good things be? It calms me a bit to know that the easy way will not get us to longevity or inner peace, we all will have to work for it.
Out of the shallow end kids, time is wasting.