This morning Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the government is launching a ‘Happiness Index’! The project will attempt to quantify factors such as income inequality, health, education levels and environmental factors and The Office for National Statistics will start making measurements in April 2011. Mr Cameron initially presented the idea in 2005 and even Robert F. Kennedy was very aware of the fact that GDP does not necessarily reflect a nation’s all-round progress. The French president Nicolas Sarkozy has also been looking at ways to evaluate wellbeing and as difficult as it may be to quantify it is surely important to consider given findings that we are financially better-off but also more stressed and less content in our lives. The lifestyle trend of having everything we want in exactly the way we want it does not necessarily give us what we actually need. Needs and wants are confused and basic human requirements are not always fulfilled.
Speakers such as Malcolm Gladwell, Martin Seligman and Alain de Botton have been considering these concepts for many years. Can happiness and wellbeing be measured and what does it actually mean? Is it even possible to generalise? In a world where a great deal of psychology focuses on mental illness and the prevention and solutions – an incredibly important sphere – the school and ideas of positive psychology encouraged by Martin is also becoming more prominent in terms of cultivating happiness and overall wellbeing. It is something we all have a vested interest in – whether from the angle of happiness per se, or even from the perspective of productivity and the bottom line as results show that happy workers result in higher profits.
Alain’s work on The Architecture of Happiness and The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work consider these questions in more detail and alongside Malcolm and Martin, he acknowledges that the ‘secret’ lies in a large combination of factors, rather than any one magic answer. Alain’s School of Life based in London involves everything from talks and workshops to bibliotherapy and brings individuals together from all walks of life to discuss and share their thoughts and experiences.
We look forward to seeing how the current debate on ‘quantifying’ happiness and wellbeing progresses and we will report back this time next year to assess the findings! Let us know your thoughts...