Saturday, November 5, 2011
I sometimes get email updates from Jonathan Harris - a sociologist who travels around the world doing all sorts of interesting projects. I heard Jonathan speak at a conference I attended in 2010, which inspired me to start this blog. He's often in various parts of the world doing unusual experiments. It's always fun to get email updates on what they are.
Jonathan's latest email was about a project he did in Bhutan in 2007 in which he interviewed people there and asked them to rate their happiness on a scale of 1-10. The full story and pictures can be found here: http://balloonsofbhutan.org/statement.php
Mimicking Jonathan again, I did my own little experiment. (Very little.) I asked a dozen Americans to rate their happiness on the 1-10 scale. I did not expect the results to be very high. I consider Americans to be a people constantly searching for happiness. Still, I was surprised to find that I was right.
No one said 10 when I asked them this question. For the most part, people said 8 or 9. Some people wouldn't answer me, suspicious of the question. We're not such a happy-go-lucky people. I found it sad that not even the two children I asked could answer with a 10.
Where do I rate my own happiness? I give myself a 9. The only thing keeping me from a 10 is my job, so I can't complain too much. I probably shouldn't complain at all since I'm lucky enough to have a good job. Still, if I didn't have to work, I wouldn't. I counted that as a point off my happiness quotient.
I think Jonathan Harris was wise to conduct his experiment in a country where the King values the happiness quotient of his people. Though we're a country whose foundation is built on the right to pursue happiness, it seems to elude us. I'm sure if Jonathan did his experiment in several countries, America would rank higher than most other parts of the world. But not higher than Bhutan, based on my simple calculations. I wonder why the people there are so happy?