SOC344 2018 Tut10 – Shoalhaven

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 #Shoal

Posted in SOC327 - Emotions Bodies and Society, UOW.

5 Comments on SOC344 2018 Tut10 – Shoalhaven

Bree Zammit said : Guest Report 3 months ago

This week I thought about the phrase “I am happy”, I asked myself if I am happy and thought about the things in my life that made me happy. I thought by answering yes to this question am I saying that happy is all that I am? Depending on what is happening in any one moment could change the answer to this question, my happiness is influenced by the social structures in my life. There are elements in my life that give me moments of happiness leaving room for the countless other emotions that make up my life. Putnam discusses the influence of one’s economic position or material well-being and explains that money can buy you happiness which I understood in the way that shopping makes me happy to the extent that when I am feeling down I have been able to lift my mood by shopping. However, Putnam explains that money only brings temporary happiness and “more money does not mean more happiness” (2013, p.3). This interested me as it made me aware that the level of happiness in my life does not change when I buy things, it just lifts my mood in that moment. Within this is emotional intelligence and being aware of my feelings and when I do feel happy and why; working in customer service I have been able to practice being emotionally aware. In this customer service setting I have to be aware of my emotions so that I am able to be aware of other people’s emotions, so that I can consider others in the way that I display my emotions to the extent where I will have to display an emotion I am not feeling. Putnam, H 2013, “The Social Context of Well-Being”, philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society #s344uow18 #shoal #tut10

Bree Zammit said : Guest Report 3 months ago

This week I thought about the phrase “I am happy”, I asked myself if I am happy and thought about the things in my life that made me happy. I thought by answering yes to this question am I saying that happy is all that I am? Depending on what is happening in any one moment could change the answer to this question, my happiness is influenced by the social structures in my life. There are elements in my life that give me moments of happiness leaving room for the countless other emotions that make up my life. Putnam discusses the influence of one’s economic position or material well-being and explains that money can buy you happiness which I understood in the way that shopping makes me happy to the extent that when I am feeling down I have been able to lift my mood by shopping. However, Putnam explains that money only brings temporary happiness and “more money does not mean more happiness” (2013, p.3). This interested me as it made me aware that the level of happiness in my life does not change when I buy things, it just lifts my mood in that moment. Within this is emotional intelligence and being aware of my feelings and when I do feel happy and why; working in customer service I have been able to practice being emotionally aware. In this customer service setting I have to be aware of my emotions so that I am able to be aware of other people’s emotions, so that I can consider others in the way that I display my emotions to the extent where I will have to display an emotion I am not feeling. Putnam, H 2013, “The Social Context of Well-Being”, philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society #s344uow18 #shoal #tut10

Wendy Firth said : Guest Report 3 months ago

Hi Leanne, just pop some citations along with your theorists please. Hi Amy, it would be great to approach your post using more of a sociological lens. Trying responding directly to one of the theorist's points in the original post. Best Wendy #S344UOW18 #Tut10 #Shoal

Leanne Watson said : Guest Report 3 months ago

I believe that happiness is very complex. Happiness can be affected easily by underlying moods which are influenced by both physiological and psychological conditions. When a person is healthy and feeling ‘well’, it is easier for them to compound their happiness by reaching out to relate in positive ways towards others, but when they are tired and anxious, unwell or depressed it is difficult to maintain happiness and equally difficult when in a ‘refractory state’ as Paul Ekman refers to, or negotiated through ‘emotional reflexivity’ as Mary Holmes describes. I consider happiness to be a reflection of well being and a gift to be shared, not purchased or forcibly displayed dishonestly, by employees, due to the demands of profiteering employers through what Arlie Russell Hochschild coined ‘emotional labour’. Individuals, I believe, should never have to prostitute such a precious and personal element of their inner selves. The ‘id’ desires freedom to be happy (Freud), although, as Roger Patulny says, ‘emotions cannot exist in isolation.’ I have heard it said that ‘misery loves company,’ it seems however, that happiness does also. #S344UOW18 #Tut10 #Shoal

Amy Angeloska said : Guest Report 3 months ago

In my opinion there are numerous aspects that contribute to our happiness and I think there are a lot of measures that individuals put in place to achieve it, because at the end of the day a lot of people chase happiness. I think that happiness can add up to be all different things to each individual person. Materialistic possessions can be the happiness of people; health, marriage, peace, contentment, relationships and love I think all would be a massive factor in happiness for any individual. I think that being social whether that is with friends or family or neighbours, it can contribute to the happiness of an individual also. Our emotions change all the time and I think that is just life, you can be happy then ten seconds later your mood can change to cause you to be unhappy. I think society and where you are at in your personal life for example your job that can make you happy and also unhappy quiet quickly due to waking up and your job is in your day-to-day schedule you spend most of your time at work. I think that in order to be happy you need to be in a good social environment, headspaces, surrounding yourself with things that make you feel good as your feelings play a large roll in making you ‘feel happy’ and contribute ‘makes you happy’. #S344UOW18 #Tut10 #Shoal

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