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he Ilappynomics of Life

The Brits don't go in much for happiness. Stiff upper lip is more the thing, and a good laugh if
warranted. Trying to be happy just seems like piffle to a practical people. Undeterred, Prime Minister
David Cameron has decided to create a national happiness index providing quarterly measures of how
folks feel.
His foray into "happynomics" has prompted a delugg-of criticism "woolly-headed distraction"
was a mild commentary at a time when Brits face a year of cuts in everlthing from public-sector jobs
to child benefits. The consensus seems to be that Cameron is going touchy-feely because in reality he's
wielding an ax.
That may be so. But the case for trying to measure the happiness of a sociefr, rather than its
growth and productivity alone, has become compelling. When Western industrialized societies started
measuring gross domestic product, the issue for many was survival. Now most people have enough or
far more than enough by the standards of human history but the question remains: "What's going on
inside their heads?"
Little that's good, it seems. Stress has become the byword for a spreading anxiety. This anxiety's
personal, about jobs and money and health, but also general: that we can't go on like this, running only to
stand still, making things faster and faster, consuming more and more food (with consequent pressures on
prices); that somehow a world of more than seven billion people is going to have to "downshift" to make
it, revise its criteria of what constitutes well-being.
Just what goes into well-being is confounding. Many of the variables like love and friendship
and family relations hard to pin down. But British research has suggested that money itself does
not confer happiness, although wealthier people tend to be happier; that employment is critical to self-
esteem; that women tend to be happier than men; and that people need something beyond the mzrterial for
Starting next month, the government will pose the following questions and ask people to respond

on a scale of zero to 10: How happy did you feel yesterday? How anxious did you feel yesterday? How

satisfied are you with your life nowadays? To what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are
Scarcely extraordinary, but Andrew Oswald, a happiness economics
expert at the University of
Warwick, suggested the questions were a good start, although he would have added, ..How well
have you
been sleeping?" an important mental health indicator and "How pressurized do you feel your time
- -
The important thing, he argues, it to shift "from the concept of financial prosperity to the idea of
emotional prosperity." Perhaps that's the 2lst-cenfury indicator we need: gross emotional prosperity, or

The Office for National Statistics, which will do the survey, has been conducting an online debate.
Answers suggest Brits link happiness to bird song, knowing themselves, the environment, responsible pet
ownership, conftibuting to society, going out into the wild and reading Socrates.

Clearly, happynomics is no precise science, and how the happiness index will link to policy
remains to be seen. But the idea is to put value on things that don't have price tags. Open spaces, clear air,
securitlr, release from pressure these are things of growing importance and scarcity. Then the question
becomes: How do you promote them while at the same time creating the jobs needed in all Western
societies? Growth is of course a large part of the answer, but it can't be all the answer any longer.
I was thinking about some recent moments of happiness in my own life. One came walking
across Regent's Park, my skin tingling at the first brush of spring. Another came kissing my daughter
goodnight as she slept and seeing how peaceful she was. A third came in Cairo seeing the powerful
dignity of the Eryptian people coalescing to bring peaceful change.
These moments were linked to nature, to finding time, to feeling the transcendent power of the
human spirit. Emotional prosperity is not the next e-mail in a relentless life.

So I'm ready to give Cameron the benefit of the doubt and even give a wary nod to his related
"Big Society" project, also the source of much guffawing. The essence of this idea is that people can give
more to one another British A.T.M.s, for example, would automatically give customers an option of
donating to charity. It's a tough sell in a grim economy, but it captures a need among dislocated people to
connect more.
That's also true in the United States. Liberty is an inalienable right of Americans, along with the
"pursuit of happiness." Note the distinction here, evidence of the wisdom of the founding fathers. The
:_.". *
Declaration of Independence guarantees freedom but, when it comes to happiness, only the quest for it is
underwritten. Still, perhaps it's time to measure just how that quest is going.
The Claim: A Fake Smile Can be Bad for Your Heatth


When was the last time you flashed afake smile at the office?

For some, it may be just another mundane aspect of work life putting on a game face to hide
your inner unhappiness. But new research suggests that it may have unexpected consequences: worsening
your mood and causing you to withdraw from the tasks at hand.
In a study published this month in the Academy of Management Joumal, scientists tracked a
group of bus drivers for two weeks, focusing on them because their jobs require frequent, and generally
courteous, interactions with many people.

The scientists examined what happened when the drivers engaged in fake smiling, known as

"surface acting," and its opposite, "deep acting," where they generated authentic smiles through positive
thoughts, said an author of the study, Brent Scott, an assistant professor of management at Michigan State

After following the drivers closely, the researchers found that on days when the smiles were
forced, the subjects' moods deteriorated and they tended to withdraw from work. Trying to suppress
negative thoughts, it turns out, may have made those thoughts even more persistent.

But on days when the subjects tried to display smiles through deeper efforts by actually
cultivating pleasant thoughts and memories their overall moods improved and their productivity

Women were affected more than men. Dr. Scott suspected cultural nonns might be at play:
women are socialized to be more emotionally expressive, he said, so hiding emotions may create more
Research suggests that an inauthentic smile to hide unhappiness can further worsen your mood.