It appears that Americans are happy

November 25, 2009

Americans are more optimistic now than a year ago about their well-being (88% vs. 84%); health, finances, relationships and odds of finding love (70% vs. 61%). Meanwhile, the Secret Society of Happy People (which “encourages the expression of happiness and discourages parade-raining”) reports traffic to its not-so-secret website has increased since the downturn…..So while optimism is the all-American anesthetic, at some point Expectation Inflation was bound to take its toll.

All this and a recession too? Nancy Gibbs’ article in Time Magazine makes for interesting reading about the relationship between ‘stuff’ and happiness (for a more comprehensive essay on this read Barry Schwartz’s book The Paradox of Choice) or see the end for Schwartz’s TED talk and that of Dan Gilbert’s on Mistaken Expectations. She’s making similar points to Schwartz in that more stuff doesn’t equal happier times. In fact more stuff means more Expectation Inflation, increased choice and a type of paralysis that sets in sending us scuttling for more of the same rather than more of the other. Gibbs is also talking about the reality principle – the point at which magical thinking morphs into something more real – and here I declare an interest because disappointment is an important part of that segue. Americans may be feeling happier now than they have in a while but I wonder if that happiness will stay put if/when the recession recedes? Time will tell – or at least may.

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