Health and Happiness
Worldwide, health is the major variable that influences joy, even more than money. Contented people are healthier, and healthy people are more content. In the developed nations of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), the higher the blood pressure, the lower the happiness level, and vice versa, indicating a “virtuous happiness and health circle.” Like the joy-to-income ratio, happiness doesn’t grow beyond a certain level of healthiness.
Gains in hygiene and medical care have a compelling impact on health and even survival (for example, available clean water means lower infant mortality). In higher-income populations, advances in science, not income, bring bigger strides in battling the illnesses that are more common in richer nations. Income and health care satisfaction are not correlated across nations: More Kenyans (by percentage of population) than Americans are content with their health. In fact, the U.S. scores 81st among 115 nations (lower than India, Malawi and Sierra Leone) in “public confidence in the health system.” Mental illness takes a greater toll on joy than physical ailments do. In the U.S. and Russia, “obese people are, on average, less happy than the non-obese.” But the levels of dissatisfaction relating to weight depend on your social group and location, since norms vary widely. In the U.S., poor minorities are less worried about being heavy than rich whites. Obesity affects mental health in that overweight people are likelier to suffer depression.
Love and Happiness
Buddhists assert that your mind cannot dwell on both the positive and the negative simultaneously, and they recommend cultivating detachment from your feelings rather than attempting to oppose or squelch them. Meditation helps. As you discover how to become aware of your feelings without attempting to control them, you will learn that you are in charge of your internal environment. People with deep spiritual beliefs generally feel happier than those without faith. One of the main benefits of a spiritual outlook is gratitude.
Advances in psychology refute the idea that personality is irrevocably formed in response to events in childhood. In cognitive psychology, as in meditation, you examine your thoughts. You ask yourself questions and explore the answers to get to the root of your issues and problems. For people with mental illnesses, psychiatry has come up with pharmacological interventions that can increase happiness. But in the end, no motivation is more profound to humans than love. If you increase the amount of love in the world, you increase the amount of happiness.