SOC344 2018 Tut10 – Mon 16.30pm

Who doesn’t want to be happy? The last few decades have seen a great rise in the pursuit of happiness. Not the Aristotelian pursuit of a virtuous, well rounded emotional life, nor the Jeffersonian pursuit of happiness through liberty as an ‘inalienable right’, nor even the Utilitarian pursuit of happiness as the ‘greatest good for the greatest number’. Rather, there has been a surge of interest in measuring and planning for the happiness of nations. The OECD now tracks wellbeing measures across countries, Bhutan has pioneered in interest in Gross National Happiness (GNH) over GDP as a measure of societal progress, and the UK is interested in findings ‘happy places’ by measuring wellbeing and happiness by geographic location. Happiness is clearly now an important measure of social progress.

And yet happiness is still largely individualised as an emotion. Despite studies by world happiness experts like Ruut Veenhoven showing that happiness is clearly linked to social structural conditions in that it varies substantially across rich, poor and unequal nations, the treatments for happiness are still largely individualised. Medication and therapy – including mass therapy, or a societal/national foci on promoting mindfulness, positive psychology and CBT – are put forward as the means for resolving unhappiness, even when changes in economic and work conditions, family, gender, ethnic, and age structures, and urban and social connection may be the primary culprits in causing unhappiness. Can the proliferation of lists on how to be happy in 5, 7, 13, or 25 ‘science-backed’ easy (and obviously non-contradictory …) steps really compensate for broader social change?

And what about other emotions? How much of our unhappiness is about rising anxiety, depression, stress and anger? How much of our happiness depends on peace, contentment and love? And how much does our happiness – in all its related emotional forms – depend on what we are doing, rather than how we might sum up our lives on a 0 to 10 scale of satisfaction? In previous research, my colleague Kimberly Fisher and I found (unexpectedly) that Americans would enjoy their time less if they lived like Australians, because they would spend more time doing unpleasant things like housework, and less time doing fun things like having people over for dinner. We also found that the GFC seemed to have the effect of helping Americans re-evaluate the quality of their time, and enjoy the grind of work less and the pleasantness of social and family time more. Clearly, reflecting on and adjusting the social circumstances and lives that make us happy is an important element on our actual happiness. Mary Holmes calls this emotional reflexivity, or “an embodied, cognitive and relational process in which social actors have feelings about and try to understand and alter their lives in relation to their social and natural environment and to others.”

I say – as I always do with regards to all matters sociological – that structure and agency go hand in hand in the consideration of our happiness. We can change the world – and we can change ourselves – one emotion at a time, with reflection and awareness. I say that we need to be reflexive about what makes us happy (how society affects us), what makes others happy (how we affect society), if there are contradictions and inequalities in happiness, and when it is appropriate to beshow, or change our happiness, unhappiness, or other emotions – rather than assuming we should always try and be simply happy as a default for living. If we can do these things, I think we can start to really understand what it means to be happy in today’s society, and to understand and build truly happy societies.

What do you think?

#S344UOW18 #Tut10 #Mon1630

Posted in SOC327 - Emotions Bodies and Society, Uncategorized, UOW.

6 Comments on SOC344 2018 Tut10 – Mon 16.30pm

Bethany Self said : Guest Report 9 months ago

In our modern era, it can be hard to seek happiness among a world of anxiety, stress and anger rising. This makes it important to realize that through the things that cause us stress, like school and work, have positive things that we can take from them to keep us happy. Usually, this is in the form of the people that come with these things; social networks (Helliwell & Putnam 2004, p.1436). It is true, however, that within our social networks people expect us to be happy as a default of living; causing us to put on our masks. If we were able to express our true inner feelings in our lives, rather than just in the appropriate situations, perhaps we would have more inner happiness if we could show how we are feeling more openly. But sadly this is not the case currently; and this expectation for a happy default continues to cause us more inner struggles. Halliwell’s idea of reverse causation and selection bias shows here, “a sunny disposition itself affects a person’s location the social structure” (Helliwell & Putnam 2004, p. 1437). This is just a further example of why emotional reflexivity comes to play, because people don’t want their true emotions to get in the way of their social lives. Helliwell, JF & Putman, RD 2004, ‘The Social Context of Well-being,’ Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, 359(1449), pp. 1435-1446

Lara Graf said : Guest Report 9 months ago

What does it mean to be happy? To be happy means different things to different people. We all have our own criteria with regards to what makes us happy. In the lecture it was discussed about about how the notion of happiness and what it means for the individual. It has changed over time from a more traditional view which was based more on what was right for society as opposed to a more modern view now which is about one’s own happiness. The pursuit of happiness seems to be the goal the modern society wishes to achieve. There is expectations that we should always be happy. This is not realistic because no one can be happy all the time, it takes too much work and emotion management to do this. It gives people the notion that maybe it is not ok to not be happy all the time but we go through so many emotions on a daily basis and it is ok not to be happy all the time. We are given the ideas that we are responsible for our own happiness but I don’t think that is necessarily the case because of the way our society is constructed. Society and the interactions we have with others impact upon our lives and whether we consider ourselves to be happy, just as we impact upon society and others too. Even though this impacts our happiness level, I suppose we have the agency to decide how we will feel about it. For example if something makes us unhappy we can choose to do something about it to become happy. Holmes (2010) discusses in her work about reflexivity and how we can use it change our lives because as we understand more about our own emotions then the more knowledge we gain and make adjustments. For instance, if we understand more about what makes us happier in our lives the more we can do to make changes to make it happen. Holmes, M. (2010) ‘The emotionalization of reflexivity’ Sociology 44(1): 139-154. Patulny, R (2018) Happiness, Mindfulness and Society SOC344: Emotions, Bodies and Society University of Wollongong delivered 7 May #S344UOW18#Tut10#Mon1630

Michaela Matthews said : Guest Report 9 months ago

Happiness is an emotion that we strive for and want to feel as much as possible. We read books, watch films and even google search ways bring about this emotion. But the term happiness is hard to define and means something different across the world We can’t simply ask the questions, rate your happiness on a scale on 1-10. There are many social factors that play a vital role in our happiness and well being, therefore it is not accurate for it to be individualised as an emotion. It is more important to find what makes us happy rather than knowing how happy we are. Society and the media also play a big part in influencing which aspects of our lives are meant to make us happy. It can often be controlling and lead us to manage our emotions to suit social expectations. We need to be reflective and think critically about these social factors in order to create a better and happier society. #S344UOW18 #Tut10 #Mon1630

Jarrod Wilson said : Guest Report 9 months ago

Happiness is a complex concept, it is tangible to some and intangible to others, means one thing to one person and another to someone else. This is why information on this subject is so scarce, due to the nature of it's existence it makes it rather difficult to efficiently produce valuable data. Some of the things we know so far are outsider human aspects that have an effect on ones happiness eg race, education, age and so forth. Layard (2005) offers the definition that happiness is "feeling good, enjoying life and wanting that feeling to be maintained" whilst this is rather broad it includes all the necessary features of ones well being and is therefore an interesting perspective on what is a very perception based, subjective emotion.

Brittany Gratzer said : Guest Report 9 months ago

Happiness and wellbeing has been understood differently by many, the traditional perspectives focused on aristotles well-rounded life of balance and utilitarianisms greatest happiness for the greatest number (Patulny, Slide 4, 2018). This is different to how happiness is viewed and explored by today’s society. Today’s society want to feel happy and experience positive moods and emotions (Patulny, Slide 8, 2018). These ideas of happiness all focus on the idea that we are looking for our emotions and how our emotions can influence what kind of life we can lead. If you arn’t a ‘happy’ person then you are more prone to mental illness, which is not true at all because many people with depression or anxiety can feel happiness. I believe that society should strive for a complete life where the good days over power the bad days but to understand that being unhappy is not necessarily a bad thing and its ok to feel other emotions rather than positive ones. Patulny, R, 2018, Lecture 10 Happiness , Mindfulness and Society. Powerpoint. Emotions, bodies and society SOC344, University of Wollongong. Viewed 14/05/18.

Sophie Washington said : Guest Report 9 months ago

Happiness is a multifaceted concept that possesses a sense of ambiguity throughout society, in regards to its causes. And while modern society attempts to identify a distinctive formula for an inherently happy life, mental health dwindles. Although I do appreciate the desire to identify significant causes of happiness, I do not think that there can be a definitive formula. Yes, there are findings that certain factors correlate with greater happiness, for example education and economic position (Helliwell & Putnam, 2004). It is also found that these elements alone do not evoke happiness, rather one’s position in relation to others (Helliwell & Putnam, 2004). Therefore, happiness is about an individual’s relationship to others as well as things as Denzin (1984) highlights ‘forms of emotionality arise from the interactions the person has with himself and others in the world’ (cited in Holmes, 2010, p. 144). Like all emotions, happiness cannot be analysed separately from the social, there are a range of factors that will determine an individual’s happiness or unhappiness. Therefore, emotional reflexivity is integral to understanding the complex nature of happiness (Holmes, 2010). This means, reflecting on what happiness means to individuals, what factors make them happy, or unhappy and how this compares to those around them. At the end of the day happiness, like all emotions is temporal, and while the focus on happiness is beneficial to society, the reality is that you cannot have lasting happiness, the pursuit of this unachievable inevitably leads to disappointment and unhappiness. Helliwell, JF & Putman, RD 2004, ‘The Social Context of Well-being,’ Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, 359(1449), pp. 1435-1446. Holmes, M 2010, ‘The Emotionalization of Reflexivity,’ Sociology, issue. 44, no. 1, pp. 39-154.

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