10 Apr A fascinating article about the complexities of measuring happiness
from The Guardian
As David Cameron's £2m plan to measure the nation's happiness gets under way this month, the American psychologist whose work inspired it has said he has changed his mind about the importance of being happy.
One of the pioneers of positive psychology, Professor Martin Seligman insists he is not recanting the doctrine which has made him a bestselling author and world-renowned expert on optimism but just that we should be focusing less on people's happiness and more on their ability to "flourish". He said he was naive in the past to think wellbeing was based only on mood.
"The word 'happiness' always bothered me, partly because it was scientifically unwieldy and meant a lot of different things to different people, and also because it's subjective," said Seligman, the director of the Positive Psychology Centre at the University of Pennsylvania.
The prime minister has long been interested in Seligman's work and first floated the idea of a "happiness index" in 2005. When he was in Downing Street Tony Blair considered the idea but dismissed it as "too flaky" and Cameron has been criticised for focusing on wellbeing as a distraction from the economy. He has admitted that measuring happiness could be seen as "woolly" and "impractical" but insists he wants a gross domestic happiness scale to become as reliable an indicator of a country's progress as its economic output.
Now the Office of National Statistics has four happiness questions in this year's annual Integrated Household Survey which will be sent out to 200,000 British homes this month.
Seligman, who has been in touch with the British government over his methods, said he welcomed the move on "both on scientific grounds and on political grounds". But he added that the notion of what made people happy had to be rethought. He said he has become increasingly frustrated with the perception of what he called "happyology" and has written a new book called Flourish, which will be released in the UK next month.
"I wanted to be much clearer that this was much more than a happyology…
…and here at The Happiness Institute we couldn't agree more (as regular readers would well be aware). To read the full and original article JUST CLICK HERE