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Happiness is the measure of true wealth

The Centre is delighted that the distinguished British philosopher AC Grayling has entered the debate about happiness. You may know that we?ve been concerned about how happiness is being used by economist Richard Layard, and taken up in the media.

AC Grayling likens happiness to a pair of saggy underpants that has ?lost its elastic and become over- capacious and shapeless? 

Grayling takes the view that happiness is a ?vague and baggy? notion as a result of his observations on the fluffiness of the construct of happiness and the misunderstandings of the relationship between wealth and happiness. 

According to Grayling true happiness is not about pleasure, as this is easy to come by.  True happiness is about things such as engagement and satisfaction. Activities such as: reaching valued goals; nurturing relationships with other people; working hard; and losing oneself in activities, are some of the ways to cultivate true happiness.

Usually these types of activities don?t make people feel happy at the time, as they are too busy getting on with them to notice how they are feeling and it is only after the fact that people get pleasure and fulfilment from them.

Grayling recommends that happiness is best worked for indirectly and not by trying to reach for the bulls eye of happiness.  He likens this to looking at a dot of light in a dark room which you can?t see by looking directly at it, and only by observing it from the periphery. This fits in with the Centre?s thinking which is that often directly aiming at something can result in a paradoxical effect and so the oblique approach is preferable (Carol, our Chief Executive, has written about this previously, see here)

In relation to wealth and happiness, Grayling says that it is not so much about what you have but it is more to do with what you do with your money.  People could have a million pounds but not spend it and, as Grayling says, they could be just like a man with no money.
Happiness IS wealth according to Grayling.  What he means by this is that happiness results from a way of viewing, and acting in, the world which is an asset to the particular person and to the world around them.  He says that happiness, unlike money, ?cannot be bought and cannot be quantified: only felt and if one has it, it does not matter if the level of it always stays the same?

In his book Authentic Happiness founding father of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman, outlines three routes to happiness: the pleasant life, the engaged life and the meaningful life.  Seligman himself has focused on happiness when talking about Positive Psychology and doing this has shaped and influenced the misconceptions. Recently, however, Seligman has recognised that happiness is not a useful way of thinking about things because happiness is transitory: a mood.  He recently revised his thinking which moves away from focusing on happiness.(you can find out more about this in another of Carol?s blogs click here ) This is a welcomed move as it helps people to focus away from happiness and away from encouraging people to feel good, and instead, to focus on the important things in life which foster well-being.  To read the article by AC Grayling click here

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