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What is happiness anyway? Friday May 17, 2013

One view of happiness, often called hedonism, is that happiness is simply a matter of subjective feeling. A happy life is one that maximises feelings of pleasure and minimises those of pain. But it can't be as straightforward as that.

Professor Martin Seligman, author of Authentic Happiness and pioneer of positive psychology, offers the following insight.

In happiness studies, researchers contact people at random during the day and ask how much pleasure or pain they are experiencing at that very moment. The researchers then extrapolate their data and calculate an approximate total for the amount of happiness experienced by that person over the week.

Afterwards, they ask the same people 'how happy was your week?' Time and again, people's retrospective view of their happiness differs greatly from the extrapolated total of experienced happiness. How was your holiday? 'It was great,' you reply, honestly. Yet if the researchers had contacted you at various times on your vacation, you would have reported all sorts of miseries - the sunburn, the squabbling kids, the overpriced drinks, and so on. Which is the more meaningful measure of happiness - what you feel at the time or the retrospective view?

As Seligman points out, when we wish someone a happy life (or a happy childhood, or even a happy week), we are not merely wishing that they accumulate a pile of pleasurable moments, irrespective of how they are distributed across one's life-span. We can imagine two lives that contain the exact same amount of momentary happiness. One life, however, is a story of gradual decline from blissful childhood to miserable old age. The other is the reverse - a tale of gradual improvement. The same amount of happiness but vastly different lives. The difference between the two lives can only be discerned by a retrospective examination of the the life pattern as a whole, not simply by the total in the happiness ledger.

The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein's was by all accounts a miserable man, whose life was full of negative emotion, yet his last words were: 'Tell them it was wonderful!' Whose life is it anyway?

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Anonymous Fri, May 17th 2013 @ 6:20am

Not sure I agree here. Try and read Gretchen Rubins book "the happiness project" gives a different insight into happiness.
Missing the chatty funny style that used to be a great way of seeing things from a different angle. I used to send som of the "epistles" to my girls to cheer them up and give them new insights but I feel these are more like lectures and I don't want to lecture my girls - just nudge them in a different direction at times!

Anonymous Fri, May 17th 2013 @ 8:27am

I agree with the above comment. Jon used to feel like a pal, talking to me, which would relax me and make me smile and I could pass on his good-humoured, friendly tips. There's information everywhere, don't need any more, but heart-felt connection .... that's another thing ... that's what lifts your mood and puts a smile on your face :)

Anonymous Fri, May 17th 2013 @ 8:36am

Hi , I must agree i am missing Jon and his simple refections and anecdotes of life . Had to read todays messages 3 times to get some understanding and thought it was a more pessimistic than optimistice view on life. Love moodscope and it has helped me graetly but please lighten up. Thanks

Julia Fri, May 17th 2013 @ 9:34am

Change is as good as a rest. Please give the new Moodscope team a break! Also see yesterday's last few blogs. The Abraham Lincoln quote is very apt.
Personally I am welcoming Caroline's new approach which actually when you think about it is not radically different from Jon's. I think the mistake many of us are making is to see Jon as a personal friend of each of us. He wasn't and never will be. He is a good man no doubt and wrote from the heart but what's to say he didn't get his messages sometimes form the internet? We just do not know. I think we have to see Moodscope for what it is. Started by Jon with the most wonderful intentions, with a good heart etc etc.but he has left now, moved on. Moodscope has to evolve like life. New people are joining up who never knew Jon. It cannot stay static. Caroline is not Jon! If old timers do not like the blogs, why don't you start one of your own?
I am sure Caroline and her team will appreciate feed back but I am getting a bit fed up with all these references to old times.It's like a long playing record, a 78, going round and round.
Let's move on and use Moodscope each day to chart our moods and post messages about the content of the blog and not about this obsession with the past and Jon, lovely though he surely must be. I have never met him and he is not a personal friend even though I am sure that would be really nice if he was!
I think today's blog is great and very helpful BTW!

Caroline Ashcroft Fri, May 17th 2013 @ 9:45am

Hi all, I do understand what you're saying and agree with you. Jon's messages were exceptional so it will be hard to match them, but I agree they could do with lightening up and we're working on it.

Elizabeth Fri, May 17th 2013 @ 10:00am

I really liked todays post. I is philosophic and challenging. I miss Jons cheery tone too, though.

I wrote it once and I have to write it again. We cannot expect anyone else to write like Jon. Even if there was someone with the same experience, the same strength to overcome difficulties and the same dettached view, his writing would be very different and it would take time for us to get used to it and many of us wouldn't like the new style anyway. It must be very hard for Caroline (or anyone writing), to read all the disappointed comments. They have some truth, but there is a demand which probably cannot be satisfied in principle, and is therefore not fair.

Julia Fri, May 17th 2013 @ 10:36am

Hi Elizabeth
I am so happy to read your comment. I agree which is why I wrote my post above. I feel sorry for Caroline and Adrian having to read all the negative comments.

penny Fri, May 17th 2013 @ 10:42am

Surely happiness depends a lot , on the attitude of the person concerned. To accentuate the positive.
I found todays piece a bit too academic and clinical, but as others have said Moodscope will find its own level.

Anonymous Fri, May 17th 2013 @ 11:43am

OK for those who may be studying for a degree in psychology? I think people's references to Jon are to do with enjoying a 'heart-felt' connection rather than something that feels academic. I think what's being discussed is a 'heart' centred as opposed to a more 'head' centred approach. My preference is for something 'touchy-feely' - a heart felt connection - rather than more head stuff. That's what I am seeking, others are different.

Anonymous Fri, May 17th 2013 @ 11:43am

Keep up the good work Caroline. Am loving it! On a more serious note, your recent blogs have really helped; I have used Moodscope for a year or so now but prefer your tone to Jon's particularly as he repeated many of his old blogs so in the end I got fed up with reading the same old pleasantries. A big thank you! I am sure all the negative wanting Jon comments are just teething troubles and will fade away.

Anonymous Fri, May 17th 2013 @ 11:47am

Agree with " missing Jon" . It so is the feeling of being connected to someone who understands. The info , tho indisputably sound, is not what i used to go for my daily Moodscope fix for.
I suppose revealing an aspect of yourself is quite a big deal for the writers. I too would hesitate to broadcast to the nation unless really, reallly confident that I would not be shot down in flames. Nobody wants their confidence dented..we've all had enough of that already!
Easy to criticise, harder to praise. At least the Moodscope team haven't folded, saying "that's it! Those so-and-sos can fight their own corner".
I wish we could help in some small way, Caroline?Caroline is right when she says they are working on it. Rome...........

Caroline Ashcroft Fri, May 17th 2013 @ 12:07pm

Thank you for your support. We'll get there :-)

Caroline Ashcroft Fri, May 17th 2013 @ 12:08pm


Moodscope Fri, May 17th 2013 @ 12:16pm

I would just like to say that the person who is writing the blog really does understand, it's just a different writing style which we're reviewing. We couldn't have folded, we know too many people rely on Moodscope and that matters a lot to us. If you do want to help, just send me an email and I'll get back to you. Thank you.

Anonymous Fri, May 17th 2013 @ 5:20pm

I have to say I am missing Jon, along with many others. I find some days really difficult and found his writing style easy to relate to. I'm finding new Moodscope more challenging. I want to be reassured without having to read the messages several times so that I can understand them. Perhaps I am a bear of very liitle brain. I don't want to look elsewhere as I like the cards, but the new messages aren't working for me, sorry. :-(

Diana Sat, May 18th 2013 @ 8:22am

PHEW !!!!!!!!!!

Betty Tue, May 28th 2013 @ 9:29pm

Great post! Yes, life is always full of ups and downs, but to cherish the good times is the key to happiness. Susan Spira, author of "Happy Shorts", "The Happy Tips Book", and "One-Liners For Life," writes about finding happiness in life. Her book, "One-Liners For Life," especially touched me. She points out that people tend to overlook the obvious in life and need to be reminded of what’s important. So in my opinion, over look the bad and focus on the good and you are in for a happy life!

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