Happiness not the goal but byproduct of life well lived – Otago Daily Times

Posted: January 7, 2020 at 6:46 pm


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Stop trying to be happy and put a smile on your face, writes Kenan Malik.

I just found this fascinating, that people who want to be happy are actually the ones that are not happy.

So observed Julia Vogt, co-author of a new study that found those who valued happiness most highly tended to show greater signs of depression.

Future historians may well look upon todays Western societies and puzzle about the desperation to be happy.

Its not that happiness is not good. Nor is it to deny that mental wellbeing is important. But mental wellbeing is not the same as an obsession with happiness (in fact, the very opposite, as Vogts study shows).

The aim of todays happiness industry is not about allowing people to live a flourishing life. It is, rather, as Will Davies observed in his book The Happiness Industry, partly a means of behaviour management on the part of both governments and private enterprise, to ensure a more pliant society and a more productive and profitable one.

It is partly, also, a means of self-optimisation, by which, as psychologist Paul Bloom observes, small-scale personal empowerment goes hand in hand with large-scale social disempowerment.

Aristotle argued that eudaimonia (which is often translated as happiness, but is probably better thought of as meaning a flourishing life) is the only thing that humans desire for their own sake.

He did not mean by this that it is an end we should set out to seek but, rather, the end we can achieve if we live our life well.

Happiness is not, and cannot be, a goal in itself. It can only be the by-product of other goals.

To seek happiness is a bit like trying to be cool. The more you are desperate for it, the less you will be.

From Guardian News

Kenan Malik is an Observer columnist.

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Happiness not the goal but byproduct of life well lived - Otago Daily Times

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January 7th, 2020 at 6:46 pm