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Why We're Happy

来源:Reader's Digest 作者:Arthur C. Brooks 时间:2010-09-26 Tag:value   mood   happy   点击:

You want to be happy. I’m going to make this assumption(臆断), and I think I’m in pretty smart company(in company意为“一起”) to do so. Socrates(苏格拉底) once asked his students, "Do not all men desire happiness?" A student answered him, "There is no one who does not."

If Socrates was right, isn’t it reasonable to assume that a decent nation will, at minimum, create the conditions in which its citizens can best pursue(追求) happiness? In the Declaration of Independence, the Founders didn’t treat happiness as some fuzzy(模糊不清的) concept; they believed that people wanted happiness and had the right to pursue it. Along with life and liberty, happiness was the connection between the Creator and our nation’s destiny, and the ability of its citizens to pursue and achieve happiness was a measure of the effectiveness and morality of the state.

What matters most for happiness is not having a lot of things but having healthy values.

But today’s leaders and policymakers seem to have forgotten this. To hear politicians talk about gross domestic product, health-care reform, and Social Security, you’d think that this nation’s Founding Fathers held as self-evident(不证自明的,不言而喻的) that we are endowed by our Creator with the ability to purchase new, high-quality consumer durables(耐用消费品) each and every year, or to enjoy healthy economic growth with low inflation(通货膨胀) and full employment. The Founders didn’t talk about these matters, not because they’re unimportant, but because they believed happiness went deeper.

As a professor of business and government policy, I’ve long been interested in the pursuit of happiness as a national concept. According to hundreds of reliable surveys of thousands of people across the land, happy people increase our prosperity(繁盛) and strengthen our communities. They make better citizens -- and better citizens are vital to making our nation healthy and strong. Happiness, in other words, is important for America. So when I chanced upon(偶然发现) data a couple of years ago saying that certain Americans were living in a manner that facilitated(使便利) happiness -- while others were not -- I jumped on(尖锐地批评) it.

I wanted to be able to articulate(讲清楚) which personal lifestyles and public policies would make us the happiest nation possible. I also wanted to know which of my own values, learned during my childhood in Seattle and practiced during my career as a university professor, were the most conducive(对……有帮助的) to happiness. I had always thought that marching to the beat of my own drummer and making up my own values as I went along were the right things to do, and that traditional values, to put it bluntly, were for suckers([美俚]傻瓜).

Turns out that I was in for(定要受到) some surprises.

First, just what is happiness? Most researchers agree that it involves an assessment of the good and bad in our lives. It’s the emotional balance sheet we keep that allows us to say honestly whether we’re living a happy life, in spite of bad things now and then.

You might suspect that Americans are getting happier all the time. After all, many (though clearly not all) are getting richer, and this should make them better able and equipped(有能力的) to follow their dreams. On the other hand, there’s a lot of talk about the good old days, when kids could play outside without any worry about being kidnapped. And there’s a great deal of stress in this country right now, due to financial concerns, negative workplace environments, and chronic(慢性的) health problems, among other pressing issues.

But average happiness levels in America have stayed largely constant(保持不变的) for many years. In 1972, 30 percent of the population said they were very happy with their lives, according to the National Opinion Research Center’s General Social Survey. In 1982, 31 percent said so, and in 2006, 31 percent said so as well. The percentage saying they were not too happy was similarly constant, generally hovering around 13 percent.

The factors that add up to a happy life for most people are not what we typically hear about. Things like winning the lottery(彩票), getting liposuction(抽脂术), and earning a master’s degree don’t make people happy over the long haul(在长时间中). Rather, the key to happiness, and the difference between happy and unhappy Americans, is a life that reflects values and practices like faith, hard work, marriage, charity(慈善), and freedom.


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