When I was younger, I studied Economics at the University. I had to use esoteric terms, complicated theories, hypothesis “all things being equal”, going from micro to macro… I felt I had to understand a monster created by us but not for us.
We have to feed the giant to maybe have a chance to see him do what we want him to do. The pulse of the beast: the GDP. But didn’t we develop all those tools to have a better life? Is it working? What’s the point of all that if human wellbeing is not in the center of our economics?
A small but famous country, Bhutan, is showing us a new way. Bhutan is Famous for it’s measurement of gross national happiness instead of GDP. But measuring happiness is a first step and doesn’t mean that the country is the country of happiness. A wave of suicide has been reported as a consequence of modernization and weaker family links.
But can we really measure happiness?
Let me introduce you to my friend Gilles who is passionate about emotions and founded an emotion based city guide: Sencities. He is working with specialists in the field of emotions and introduced me to Florent from the Lab LUTIN (Imp in French). They pluged me on a machine that took several data like my heartbeat, my eyes movements and my breathing. The lab is studying and measuring our emotions for industrial purpose, in this lab it’s specifically for the videogame industry but we can easely imagine that it could be used to measure happiness eventhough for the moment they can’t make the difference between anger and happiness for example.
I tried an other machine/gadget/tool that claims it can raise your happiness level: hearthmath. It helps you monitor your emotions and through exercices coordinate your brain and your heart. It’s called coherence.
Technology is trying to measure happiness but on a world level it seems that happiness became a hot subject. Even the very famous social network Facebook launched an analysis of our happiness level using keywords in users status. Learn more about it with this article or this video.
But in the end do we need so many criterias to measure happiness?
In Hypertension and Happiness across Nations , David Blanchflower and Andrew Oswald measured blood-pressure of 15,000 randomly sampled individuals from 16 countries. They compared well-being with high blood pressure and found evidence that suggests that happier nations report fewer blood-pressure problems. It matched happiness measurements that were made with a simple scale of subjective happiness.
This other study “examined the accuracy of measuring happiness by a single item (Do you feel happy in general?) answered on an 11-point scale (0-10). Its temporal stability was 0.86. The correlations between the single item and both the Oxford Happiness Inventory (OHI; Argyle, Martin, & Lu, 1995; Hills & Argyle, 1998) and the Satisfaction with Life Scale (Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985; Pavot & Diener, 1993) were highly significant and positive, denoting good concurrent validity. Moreover, the single item had a good convergent validity because it was highly and positively correlated with optimism, hope, self-esteem, positive affect, extraversion, and self-ratings of both physical and mental health. Furthermore, the divergent validity of the single item has been adequately demonstrated through its significant and negative correlations with anxiety, pessimism, negative affect, and insomnia. It was concluded that measuring happiness by a single item is reliable, valid, and viable in community surveys as well as in cross-cultural comparisons.”
We can continue measuring cold data like money but I believe that there is space to use happiness as a legitimate indicator and driver for our society. Who’s in?