Monday, December 6, 2010

The holidays and the 'happiness paradox'

The Washington Post writes about the "happiness paradox," based on a recent Emory conference on the topic:

Before you rush off to the mall or join the office holiday party, some A-list religious leaders want you to know one thing: The happiness derived from tearing open a coveted gift or downing a tasty beverage will fade before the final stanza of "Auld Lang Syne." And all you'll be left with in the New Year is an empty wallet and a hangover.

In fact, the consumer-driven culture whose engine revs this time of year is probably "the most efficient system yet devised for the manufacture and distribution of unhappiness," says Lord Jonathan Sacks, Britain's chief rabbi.

So, if iPods and eggnog won't do the trick, what will make us happy?

Sacks was one of four prominent religious leaders invited by Emory University in Atlanta this year to answer that eternal question. "The Pursuit of Happiness Conference," organized by Emory's Center for the Study of Law and Religion, also included the Dalai Lama, Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a noted Muslim scholar at George Washington University.

In a nutshell, their common advice might be dubbed the "happiness paradox": the more you give, the happier you get. In that way, Sacks said, spiritual happiness is the "greatest source of renewable energy we have."

"If I have a certain amount of money and I give some to you, I have less," Sacks said. "But if I have a certain amount of friendship or love or trust and I give it to you, I don't have less, I have more."

Read the whole Washington Post article

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