One’s end is another’s start
This eBook is just the beta version a path we hope you’ll decide to walk together. We briefly mention here some topics which could have complemented this book, we look forward for the many more which will come only if you decide to provide us your feedback and share your happiness story with us. The next version of this eBook will be substantially different, your contribution in terms of content and inputs is vital to make it relevant to your happiness story.
Starting a paradigm shift: degrees of appropriateness
In an analogical world, it was efficient to think digitally. That is, in a world without our current technological know-how, people preferred to reduce accuracy in favour of thinking in terms of right and wrong, discrete values, 0 or 1. In a digital world, it is effective to think analogically. That is, in a world where specialization is wide-spread and processing power easily available, people can improve accuracy and think in terms of degrees of appropriateness, with continuous values. Many debates are floating in the air, including the ones about SWB, where different schools of thought aim to prove they are totally right, and everyone else totally wrong. The paradigm shift is to think inclusively: given one opportunity to analyze, its values may tend towards one direction in a specific context, and towards another direction in another context. By pooling together our experiences and expertise, we can discuss which course of actions are more appropriate, or which outcomes more likely to occur, instead of thinking in terms of right or wrong, 0 or 1.
Being happy is a choice
A recurrent theme in this eBook, and a fact for everyone who is taking happiness seriously: living joyfully is a choice. We can partially control what happens with us, we can totally control what happens within us.
Free-will is a fact, if we are mindful
We are free to act and we can take charge of our lives, as long as we are mindful. If we just act based on reflex and instinct, then we are bounded to “fight or flight” behaviour.
SWB has implications for public policy
Politicians can no longer focus only on monetary indicators when designing and implementing their policies. Subjective well-being is important for voters, often when they are not even fully aware of it. For example, environmental conditions influence voters’ moods: what is the point of a few points increase in GDP, or local business turn-over, if the cost for that is measured in parks being wiped away, with much lower air quality etc? This is not to say monteray indicators are not important, this just means they are not enough and need to be integrated with SWB indicators, like the ones provided by Gallup. Also, with proper research which estimates the savings of SWB policies on the health-bill (for example, “it is estimated that $ XYZ are saved every month thanks to policies which facilitate healthy living”), and improvement in results, of Countries, it becomes easier for policy-makers to take fact-based decisions.
SWB has implications for international relations
Subjective well-being plays leading role in 21st century public diplomacy: would you be greateful to a foreign Country, whose traditions and current infrastructure allows you to improve your health? China and India, with their TCM and Ayurveda, are especially well placed to contribute to the SWB of people around the World, both in terms of incoming tourists who are visiting clinics etc. and foreign citizens who can benefit in their home Country from the expertise of Chinese and Indian expatriates, and their students.
SWB agents, objects, actions can be classified as hot, mild, cool
There are “agents”, “objects” and “actions” facilitating SWB: agents are the providers/producers/facilitators of a given SWB object; an object is the physical substance, or the approach/procedure, of a SWB action; an action is what is required by a person to embrace a SWB object. To make some examples: a meditation instructor, or a pharmaceutical company, are agents; a given approach to meditation, or a pill, are objects; the act of meditating, or taking/being given a pill, are actions. Agents are often subject to public policy; objects, to industry/regulatory agencies standards; actions, to the common sense of the person performing/receiving them.
“Agents”, “objects” and “actions” can be classified based on the different degrees of participation they require from the person who embraces (or is prescribed) them. “Hot” indicates an object which require little participation from the person choosing it; it is usually a silver-bullet solution to address one specific issue, often appropriate in life-threatening situation. Medicines are often “hot” objects. “Cool” indicates an object which require considerably greater participation from the person choosing it; it is usually a holistic solution to address a wide range of aspects, often appropriate when immediate results are not the main goals. Improving one’s eating habits is an example of “cool” object. “Mild” indicates an object, or a bundle of objects, which require average participation from the person choosing it; it usually brings a mix of immediate and long term results.
Being happy together: multilevel happiness
People can be wealthy while other people are starving, unfortunately that occurs quite often. But we cannot be happy in a vacuum, joyful beings who are an island to themselves; as mentioned, happiness is social and contagious. We also find the idea of Multilevel happiness appropriate. When it comes to multilevel marketing, often early the first movers (the ones at the top of the scheme) are the one profiting, while others are just feeding them; multilevel happiness creates joy for all, and sometimes the last to join even benefit from aggregated experiences and happiness of the friends who preceded them. Let’s be agents of happiness!
Being happy together: without dependency
Sometimes, we may think that, by carrying other people on our shoulders, we are going to make their lives better. In reality, we are just contributing to making them dependent on us. There are exception, but in most of the cases, people can usually take them of themselves, and are happier when they do. We should be generous with all, without making them dependent on us. We should help in case of emergency and for long term projects, but making other people dependant on us for their daily living presents dangers: to them, because they no longer feel empowered: to us, because it grows our ego, by making us feeling so important for others.
Provisional happiness can be influenced by external short-term events; lasting happiness, is influenced both by objective (genetics and natural predispositions) and subjective (educating our emotions; ensure that, if they crystallize into moods, they are positive ones) personal factors . By knowing better how to develop our subjective factors, and how to maximize our objective factors, we increase our happiness.
Happiness is a way of living
Happiness is the result of what we think and do. Happiness is not a target to aim to, nor a place to reach and blissfully sit there forever. If we are concerned only with happiness, we are going to miss it; if we live our lives in ways appropriate the context, we are happy.
Happiness is like a garden: it comes in different shapes, sizes, colours; it grows on different soils, under different weather conditions; it brings different flowers. What’s common about our garden of happiness is that it needs to be understood and nurtured, cultivated and loved. And there is no such thing as cultivating our small fenced garden in a vacuum: it depends on how other gardens are, which seeds are carried around by bees, etc.
Power of context
We also need to understand strengths and weaknesses are never absolute, and always contextual: a shy person makes an ideal listener, and maybe not the most performing social butterfly. For this reason, shy people may put themselves in the contexts where they can facilitate happiness for them and other people; and also let themselves go in more social situation. Still, happiness is more building in strengths, and not force ourselves in filling what we see as voids.
We can change: Neuroplasticity and Neurogenesis
Science discovered that our brain can be rewired (neuroplasticity). And not only that, new neurons can be generated (neurogenesis). At any age, and in almost every condition. Of course, there are some stages of our lives, and certain conditions, where neuroplasticity and neurogenesis are facilitated more; still, how we think and what we do rewires our brain, and the way our brains are wired influence how we see the world and what we do. We can make this a virtual circle, supporting our growth as individuals and member of society.
Being aware of awareness: consciousness matters
Scientific research made giants steps toward a deeper understanding of consciousness. While we do not all need to be experts in neuroscience, an understanding of its discoveries can facilitate our happiness, making us more aware of how our awareness works .
Evolution explains a lot about our instincts
Why, as individuals, our behaviour may be so unpredictable, but as “crowds” patterns are easy to spot? Because, among other reasons, there was an evolutionary advantage in following the wisdom of the crowd, especially in situations of emergency: if a member of the tribe was suddenly running, chances he/she spotted a potential source of food, or a predator who was ready to attack; and, in a relatively small community, it was easy for peers to know the odd case of a tribe-member who was always running for no reason.
Why is sex so often present in our minds? Because most of the beings with low libido are, well, extincted due to lack of off-springs.
Meme explains a lot about our customs
Meme is a label used to identify units of cultural ideas, symbols or practices; meme are, by their own nature, transmittable from one mind to another. This means that customs which are easily transmissible in a given context, are likely to stick around for long regardless of their degree of truthfulness, sometimes even when they are objectively detrimental to the people implementing them.
The need for more research
Science already made remarkable discoveries in the field of subjective well-being, this justifies investing more resources in research, both longitudinal (across time) and latitudinal (across different demographics).
The need for more wide-spread awareness
Initiatives like the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index are extremely important to spread awareness about SWB, and remind to policy makers the importance of keeping SWB into high consideration. We hope these kind of measurements will become even more prominent.
The need for critical thinking
Subjective well-being requires, among other things, to act accordingly to our interpretation and evaluation of data, information, communications, and argumentation. It requires us to quantify a degree of confidence with which we embrace, or decline, the different options available. Considering the importance, and number of stakeholders, active in SWB, we do need to think critically about what we do; there are several good points made by researchers and thinkers about the pitfalls of a society which, instead of a genuine interest in SWB, develops a superficial “feel good” approach to life. We’ll suggest some of them, in new releases of this book.
About religion, metaphysics, spirituality and ethics
Religions include several aspects, like theology, metaphysics, spirituality, ethics, etc. Many religions deeply differs from each other about theology and metaphysics; even more in the way they label and describe them. Spirituality and ethics can be a subset of a religion, with many similarities across different traditions; or they can be a way we relate with ourselves and all the beings, outside a religious framework.
Religious choices, based on what we believe, are not a subject of this eBook. Spirituality and ethics, based on what we experienced as appropriate in given contexts, will be discussed further in future releases.
About opportunities, challenges, and problems
Everything is as it should be, given the current components of the present context. If we want to change the outcome of the situation, then we need to take action. In the case of opportunities, the upside for us is the most evident. When we see challenges, we are focused on the question marks raised by a situation; still, by taking action, we can overcome them. When we see problems, then the focus is all on the threats; problems cannot be solved with the same mind-set which created them, they demand a brand new approach, otherwise they would not even be problems in the first place.
Happiness to be found East?
Rudyard Kipling’s line from the “The Ballad Of East And West” is mentioned many times: “Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet”. Unfortunately, the rest of the quotation is often omitted: “But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth, When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!”.
East and West, North and South, they can all meet and share the fruits of their cultures and understanding. It is important to say that, all along the history of the “West”, there were voices who had a more holistic view about life and happiness; also, from the East, there were dual doctrines. That means to look East is not necessary to live joyfully, even if of course the wealth of wisdom developed in the East can facilitate us. There were philosophers, like Epicurus, who hinted to ways of living happily; unfortunately, these voices were not considered supportive to the ruling classes and status-quot, and so were ignored, misrepresented or even repressed.
What’s in an eBook title?
We like to write about our experiences and opinions in this blog. We also hope other people can read them, add their own take and benefit from them. This means the blog need to be found, and search-engines are the way information is found nowadays.
Being found by search-engines means using appropriate keywords in titles, descriptions etc. This bring one challenging question: are these keywords really an appropriate way to describe what we write about? For example, self-development and self-help are popular search terms. They are also contradictions in terms 🙂 Most of us do not really need to strenghten the self, most of us benefit from focusing on real awareness.
To make another example: the word happiness is inflated. It is used a lot, often to identify pleasure and other feelings which aren’t really happiness. Still, people perform happiness-related searches on Google et al, and a fair amount of friends visit us thanks to such searches.
How did we decide to balance these different opportunities, for now? We keep happiness in our posts and tags. We also mention self-development from time to time. And we also add what we believe is appropriate to describe the formula to a happy life: living joyfully. And also living joy fully. Because, based on our personal experiences, happiness is a way of living: acting in appropriate manners (because we really are all on the same boat, and we all deserve respect; and not because we know only because that makes us happy) creates joy, here and now, for all..
This eBook is currently in beta version. Future publications will include new releases, and also “plug-ins”: short pamphlets, usually focused on one topic only. If you want to provide suggestions etc. please send them to http://www.iswb.org/contact-us/
This is part of “Happiness Formulas. How to assess our subjective well-being? How to live joyfully in the 21st century?”. This free eBook can be downloaded from
http://www.iswb.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/happiness-e-book.pdf or from the home-page of the Institute of subjective well-being: science of happiness .