Can Happiness Be Measured?

Today I decided to talk about something that interests me quite a lot, and that’s happiness. It’s a really interesting emotion to explore and evaluate, so please indulge me for today while I have a bit of a delve into whether or not we can measure it!

backgrounder.png

When it comes to 2 millions years, we all consider that an incredibly long time, but in fact, when it comes to Evolution, 2 million years really is no time at all. In 2 million years, the human brain has nearly tripled in size, from the 1 ¼lb brain of our ancestors, Homo Habilis, to the nearly 3lb brain that we all posses today.

With this growth of our brains, the structure of our brains altered too, leading to the development of what is now referred to as the ‘prefrontal cortex’. The ‘prefrontal cortex’ is the area of the brain that determines decision making and holds our ability to essentially, ‘experience things, without experiencing them’. As Dan Gilbert explains in his talk with TED, “The Surprising Science Of Happiness”, an example of this function can be explained through why Ben and Jerry’s don’t have liver-and-onion ice cream. “It’s not because they whipped some up, tried it and went, ‘Yuck.’ It’s because, without leaving your armchair, you can simulate that flavour and say ‘yuck’ before you make it.” The prefrontal cortex goes through most major changes during the ‘teen’ and pubescent years, which heavily contributes towards why teenagers tend to make impulsive and irrational decisions.

Naturally, with this development in the brain, we also developed problems with it. As we have grown and developed, we’ve discovered something known as ‘Impact bias’. This is the tendency for this ‘experience’ simulator, to work badly. Over time, we have internalised the idea that many situations that contain 2 differing outcomes, have a typically ‘good’ outcome, and a typically ‘bad’ or ‘undesirable’ outcome. From covert field studies, to overt lab studies, we have found that examples such as winning or losing an election, gaining or losing a romantic partner, passing or not passing a test, etc, have far less impact, less intensity, and a much shorter duration than we expect them to have on our happiness and lives. A further example of this is when people were questioned whether or not they’d be happier with winning the lottery, or becoming a paraplegic.

Naturally of course, all people that were asked, answered that they’d rather win the lottery. This is because we naturally assume that we’d be far happier with that outcome. But the truth is, that a year after experiencing one of these life changing events, either winning the lottery, or becoming a paraplegic, both groups of people rated their levels of happiness as exactly the same. This is the ‘impact bias’ in full swing.

A recent study carried out by Kubler-Ross led to the ‘Kubler-Ross Change Curve’. This chart demonstrates how major life traumas effect people, and it suggests that if the event occurred more than 3 months ago, with a few exceptions, it had no impact on an individuals day-to-day happiness.

So how are we going through such life changing events, but merely 3 months later, almost completely unaffected by it? We are able to do so, because happiness can be synthesized. Sir Thomas Brown wrote in 1642, “I am the happiest man alive. I have that in me that can convert poverty to riches, adversity to prosperity. I am more invulnerable than Achilles; fortune hath not one place to hit me.”  Human beings have something that we refer to as a ‘psychological immune system’, a system of cognitive processes, largely non-conscious cognitive processes, that help us change our views of the world, so that we can feel better about the world in which we find ourselves; and, like Sir Thomas, we all have this machine.

Before getting into this machine, and how we synthesise happiness, we must first understand the difference between ‘synthetic’ and ‘natural’ happiness. Natural happiness is what we feel when we get what we wanted, and synthetic happiness is what we make when we don’t get what we wanted. However, in our society, we seem to have a strong belief that synthetic happiness is of an inferior kind.

We synthesise happiness, yet we still believe happiness is a thing to be found, or a destination to be ‘reached’. Examples of people showing signs of ‘synthesising’ happiness typically occur when people seem to be ‘stuck’ or ‘trapped’ in situations. An example of this could be a woman that embarks on a date with a man who hasn’t shaved, and picks his nose, is unlikely to see the man again, but take the exact same situation, but the couple are married, and the woman deems the man ‘loveable’ and focusses on his better aspects and traits. This is because the woman is synthesising happiness by making the best of her situation and options.

A further example of a person synthesising happiness is that of Moreese Bickham. Bickham was jailed for 37 years in a Louisiana State Penitentiary for a crime he didn’t commit. But was  released for good behaviour halfway through his sentence. However, after his release, Bickham was quoted as saying, “I don’t have one minute’s regret. It was a glorious experience.” This is a prime example of synthesising happiness. Bickham has looked back on his experiences, and actively chosen to take the good from it. Ultimately using the word ‘glorious’, which is commonly a word we reserve for something greater than ourselves, such as a religious experience.

So how does all of this relate to happiness and whether or not it can be measured? As Dr Dan Siegel was quoted, “Well-being, of course, is a very subjective and individual experience.” Some argue that happiness cannot possibly be measured, at least not objectively because none of the obvious behaviours can be linked to happiness in a reliable manner. Even an outgoing and friendly appearance, which is so frequently observed among happy people, can be put on as a mask by those who are unhappy. Furthermore, as Michael Blastland said, “Your well-being may not be improved by the same things as mine, the fact that you like to get stoned isn’t going to see cannabis in Tesco.” Objectivity is not being influenced by personal feelings or opinions in representing facts; but that’s exactly what happiness is, and how it is effected.

Ultimately, it can be argued that happiness can indeed be measured, because it’s already happening, right now. Since 2010, The ONS have, as a result of governmental request, been including happiness and well-being questions in their surveys, meaning that we have self-assessed data from the past 5 years detailing our happiness and well-being levels. In the year 2014/5, we as a nation rated our ‘Life Satisfaction’ as 28.8%, up 2% from the year 2013/4. Since we have this data, therefore, surely it must be possible to measure happiness, right?

You might ask yourself, “Why does it even matter? Happiness is surely an individual and unique experience to everyone.” And well, you’d be right. As soon as the reasoning behind why the government wanted The ONS to collect information on our ‘happiness’ and ‘well-being’ levels was investigated, their motives are obviously deeper than just wanting a happier nation. Our government, naturally, want to improve our country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) which is the monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country’s borders in a specific time period. And it was believed that by monitoring and attempting to improve our GNH (Gross National Happiness), our GDP would increase as a consequence of that.

A further reason as to why we need to be measuring happiness is to ensure we understand ourselves on a deeper level. An example of this could be that happy people are simply more likely to want to get married, and therefore we have the cause and effect the wrong way around. Whereas we falsely attribute happiness to people that are married.

Ultimately, we can all agree that yes, happiness can be measured. This is because I can ask any one of you, on a daily basis, to rate your happiness, and you’d be quite capable of doing so. However, we are only able to rate and measure our own happiness, because we exclusively have access to our, and only our own, unique data, and we can draw conclusions from that. But because we don’t have many control variables, we can’t necessarily compare our data, so the conclusions can only exist as unique and independent data.


This post really does run the risk of being a tldr, so if you made it this far, I’d like to really thank you for taking the time to read this post in its entirety, it means a great deal to me, and this is a topic that I really enjoy writing about.

I thought it’d be fun to cover a much more in-depth and deeper topic, because I very rarely delve into topics that deeply interest me, I feel like I’d stagnated into just pushing out content about generic and predictable things, and doing different things like this is something I’d like to start doing more.

Do you believe that happiness can be measured and compared? Let me know in the comments!

 

Notebook Obsession

Hi, my name’s Corinne and I have a problem.

WAIT BEFORE YOU LEAVE NO IT’S NOT ABOUT THAT, THIS POST IS ABOUT NOTEBOOKS DIDN’T YOU READ THE DAMN TITLE C’MON.backgrounder (1)It was a lovely day out, when I wandered into TK Maxx, and it was brought to my attention that I may have a slight obsession with notebooks. For every one that I pointed out to my pal, she very kindly reminded my that I already had 4 at home, and 3 in my basket (all of which are still entirely unused, what can I say aren’t we all intimidated by an empty notebook?)

So today I thought I’d show you guys my little collection, as a haul of sorts, with a little run down as to why I love notebooks, and why I will never stop myself from buying more.

At the end of last summer, just before the start of the school year, I decided to pick up some new school supplies to see me through the year, and one of my favourite picks was this (originally) plain lavender notebook, because it’s A5 size, so it easily fits into my backpack, but it’s still big enough for me to make notes in. I chose to decorate it with these adorable pony stickers because no amount of responsibility will make me grow up.IMG_1308This trio is one of the main reasons that I love notebooks so much, because they can be so tiny and easy to slip into any bag. I like using these for writing down advice, and just random quotes and typography that I like.

I also really like that they aren’t lined, so that gives you the little bit more freedom for doodling and just jotting down anything you fancy.IMG_1306This notebook I picked up from TK Maxx, because I didn’t have a notebook with ring binding, and these are usually the easier to write in because you can just rotate all of the pages back, meaning you don’t ruin the spine by bending the notebook. I also love the cover of this one, because I feel like it inspires me to never hold myself back, and to just create.IMG_1315This is one of my older notebooks, I picked it up in a stationery store, primarily because it’s a full A4 sized notebook, but also it’s really satisfying to use. If you’re a notebook entusiast such as myself, you’ll understand why; it’s big, it has a super-soft faux-leather covering, and the pages are thick and lined, so it’s like a good old fashioned classic journal.IMG_1316And finally these 2, both of which I also picked up from TK Maxx, again they are both A5, but the lavender one has another super-soft cover that has “Stay Classy” printed onto it in silver text, and the other is a hard-backed notebook with “Stuff I’m Likely To Forget” (how perfectly apt for a notebook am I right?!) written in a gorgeous gold font.IMG_1314


That’s it for my little notebook haul, I hope you guys enjoyed it! Do you also love a good notebook? Let me know in the comments!

How To Proof Read Your Own Work

As I know that most of you guys reading are fellow bloggers, today I thought I’d write another post with writing/blogging in mind!

backgrounder (6)
Jack Bun-Bun is here to give you all of his editing advice

We’ve all found ourselves looking back on a post, (usually just after having pressed ‘publish’…) just to be confronted with annoying typos and missing/extra words that we swear weren’t there after our final scan through the post. Or even worse, having someone point out a really obvious mistake that you hadn’t noticed at all. It’s much easier to proof read someone else’s work than it is to check through your own, so today I’m sharing some tips that I’ve found and collected for how to proof read your own work!

Dissociate | The most important thing to do in order to be objective when re-reading and critiquing your own writing is to separate yourself from the fact that you know how the piece is supposed to read; which means we tend to not pick up on the little details. A quick way to go about this is by reading the piece backwards. It really can be as easy as starting with the last sentence and reading backwards, as that way our brains pick up on anything that doesn’t make complete sense.

Bring Your Words To Life | Again, doing something different with your work, that can be as simple and obvious as reading your work out loud, or printing it out, instead of just writing and rewriting, means that our mistakes are much more obvious.

Plan | I really should take my own advice on this one, but sometimes proof reading your own work can be a lot easier if you’re not proof reading on the same day. So planning and drafting posts ahead of time gives you a lot more opportunities to redraft and find errors.

Avoid Scanning | When we are faced with a mass of text, we very often tend to scan the piece as a whole, instead of actually taking the time to read the sentences as we would if someone else wrote them.


Those are the best tips I’ve found, let me know in the comments if you can think of any tips that work for you that I might have missed. I hope that these tips can help some of you out! I am by no means a professional; in fact, I have some very lovely editor/proof reader pals who usually find my errors and let me know about them, but hopefully these tips can help us all out!

My Blogging Space

I always think it’s interesting to get to see the ‘behind the scenes’ of a blog, getting to know the person and the space that content comes from is just as interesting, if not more, than the content itself. So today I thought I’d give you guys a little insight into my blogging space.deskwhole

Now because my room is themed black, silver and orange, I have a black desk to remain in-keeping with my room. I’ve labelled the things in this image to make it clearer just what I am talking about.

1. I have speakers plugged into my laptop (though they can also be connected to my tablet, phone or any other device with an audio jack) because I really like listening to music when writing, and also just listening to music to relax or get ready. I’m also really into discovering new music and rediscovering music because I’m working on something really fun for you guys that you’ll get to see really soon!

2. Then I have these amazing post-it-notes (with a colourful pen), they are orange, so very fitting, but also a great way of jotting down any ideas I may have in a random moment, or just to remind me of something I have to do. I also have a hand sanitiser here just beside my speakers because I like to keep my keyboard and tablet screen clean.

3. Here I have a special yearbook made by one of my best friends, it’s filled with pictures and memories from mine and all of my best friends’ entire school lives together and I love it immensely. It helps me if ever I’m stuck in a rut, just to flick through and reminisce.

4. Of course, I have my tablet handy on my desk for when my mind strays and I spend a little bit of time mindlessly scrolling through social media. It is also handy to have another screen open for images or prompts when I’m writing.

5. The epitome of my blogging space, my laptop. This is where everything is detailed, planned, roughly outlined, edited, and finally created in it’s final form.

leftdesk

rightdesk

6. I like to have a candle (preferably scented) lit for when I’m sat at my desk for a long time just to keep the atmosphere warm and relaxed. Obviously in this handy little oil burner because it keeps the flame safely tucked away from everything important.

7. I always have either water or tea next to me when I’m writing. Simply because staying hydrated is always important to keep you feeling awake and creative, but also, if you don’t stay hydrated you’ll only end up mindlessly snacking for the entire time you’re sat at your desk.

8. In this little corner I have a picture of my cats when they were kittens, on the very first day I met them, adorable. Fresh flowers whenever I can get them, a cute little book that was given to me by a very loved one, and a little crystal dish for my jewellery, as I’m forever taking rings and bracelets off and on while I’m writing.


That’s everything I usually have in my blogging area, what do you like to have handy for when you’re writing? Let me know in the comments!