Saturday, 26 June 2010

Everybody wants to be happy

"The planet can't afford a growing world economy, and the world economy can't afford a recession, so how should we live?", says me, paraphrasing Professor Jules Pretty of University of Essex, who gave a keynote speech at Colchester2020's Business Breakfast yesterday. He talked about consumerism round the world, comparing Europeans and north Americans, with people from Asia and Africa, and how many more planets we will need if they catch up with our levels of consumption.

So, as I tucked into my plentiful breakfast, he said (me paraphrasing again - his language was a little more learned) that "we seek growth so we can have more stuff, and we want more stuff as we believe it will make us more happy". Many of us in the west aspire to much more (often pointless) stuff, and the consequent happiness it will bring us, but we overlook basic human psychology.

Pretty then decribed a study of two very different groups of people. One group consisted of people who had won a fortune on the lottery, and the second were individuals who had become paraplegic following car accidents. For both groups, at least a year had passed since the traumatic/ecstatic event of their crash/win, and they were asked about their happiness "after" compared with "before".

And both groups reported that they had settled down after the initial change in feelings, and had reverted to how they were before, and were no more or less happy despite the big change in personal circumstances.

So, if you're unhappy, and dream of winning the lottery and subsequent happiness; first you almost certainly ain't going to win, and secondly, if you do win, you ain't gonna be happier. For myself, it has been rather traumatic to have a two-year old become type-1 diabetic, making me angry and ranting, and turning our lives in a different direction, but I can't say I'm any less happy twenty months on from his D-day compared with "before".

(Picture - tightrope walker, Colchester High St, Colchester2020 festival, evening of 25 June 2010)

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