In pursuit of happiness

HAPPINESS Something money can’t buy

HAPPINESS Something money can’t buy  

Elusive and difficult to measure, a BBC programme tries to figure out how “happy” we are

Want to measure your happiness? “The Happiness Formula”, a series on BBC World, looks at the newest research from around the world to find out what makes us happy. The series started on June 2 airs at 9 p.m. on Saturdays. Series producer Mike Rudin talks to MetroPlus.

Why have you chosen the theme ‘Happiness’?

I had always thought that happiness is far too vague a concept to spend too much time thinking about. The more I read and the more I talked to people, I realised there is a great deal we can learn. There aren’t any short-cuts to happiness, but some key ideas do seem to make a difference. Some social scientists think they can now measure happiness and they claim happy people are more sociable, successful and healthier. It is a very controversial claim. In the past we just speculated what made people happy. But now scientists have begun to collect data from around the world and compare their results systematically. We have one on our website at > where you can go and test how happy you are

How is the series formulated?

The programme first gives you an overview, looks at how positive psychologists say we can rewire our brains and actually become happier by controlling how we think about life. It looks at money, health, sociability and community, and designing happiness .

How exactly is happiness measured?

Pyschologists measure happiness by simply asking people how happy they are. Of course it is a little more complicated than that; there’s often a series of questions which have been used on many thousands of people before and cross-checked to determine accuracy. Scientists argue that what a person says about their own happiness tends to tally with what friends or even strangers say about them.

Comment on Bhutan’s move to ban MTV and advertisements.

Bhutan puts happiness at the heart of its government, and it puts the principle of Gross National Happiness alongside the pure economic index of Gross Domestic Product. Their former PM Jigme Thinley told us they are “pursuing happiness in a serious way”.It has led the country to make some unusual choices. The country has banned a number of channels including MTV and international wrestling, which the government felt did little to promote happiness.

What are the factors that govern a person’s happiness?

The trouble with happiness is that it is elusive. There are no easy short cuts, but psychologists such as Professor Diener, suggest there are some basic rules which can guide us — we need meaning in life; we need to find things to do that we value and we enjoy. We are told we need good friends and family.We need to control how we look at the world; learn from the bad, but not dwell on them.

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