CondronEnglish III Honors21 December 2017Happiness in Modern Society: a Viable Dream or a Lost Cause? Since the dawn of civilization, a perepetual truth has marred the face of human morality: for one man to gain, another has to lose. It is upon this axiom with which countless empires have been built, and Lady Liberty is no stranger to this. In fact, for her Puritan ancestors to lay the seeds of this great American nation, they had to mutilate the indigenous race and ravage its intricate tribal society.
By seeking material possesions to attain happiness, as did the Puritans, one creates this same gain/loss situation which grants personal reward at the expense of others; thus, he cannot truly be happy. It is worrying to witness, then, the growing wave of millenials who assume that attaining happiness means obtaining the newest, most useless commodities. In the purest sense of the word, happiness can only be attained through internal realizations which sprout personal satisfaction, not through any physical item or action. Effectively, for one to truly better himself, he must remove these materialistic vices that will ultimately harm others and focus more on his personal growth as a dynamic member of society, as stressed by the great thinker Abraham Maslow.
Thus, happiness is best maximized through crafting meaningful interpersonal friendships, attaining success in academia, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. To begin, one can best harvest his own happiness by crafting substantial interpersonal friendships. Evidently, humans have lived and grown simply because of their remarkable ability to bond with those dear to them, and without the unconditional sense of support and community granted by maintaining these friendships, society would never have advanced forth from its primitive era. Furthermore, sociologists across the globe agree that maintaining solid friendships facilitates personal advancement and higher reported levels of happiness. In a Japanese social study, for instance, researchers drew data from the Survey of Midlife Development in Japan (MIDJA) to examine how much value people place on their close friendships (shin-yu) and workplace relationships (tsukiai-nakama) through a series of questions scaled from 1 (strongly agree) to 5 (strongly disagree). After receiving the results of the survey, researchers found a positive correlation between a sense of mattering in friendship and overall happiness, stating that those who placed considerably more value in both their shin-yu and tsukiai-nakama relationships noted a “higher level of interpersonal mattering” and “elevated perception of positive relations with others, which is then associated with more happiness” (Taniguchi 1484). This idea is further elevated by a study comparing a group of college students from Turkey and the United States, in which researchers sought to evaluate how friendships may affect the levels of happiness on campus. Accordingly, the researchers administered a survey to a random group of students within each nation, using a variant of the Mattering to Others Questionnaire (2001) which asked the subjects to rank their agreement to a series of statements pertaining to friendship.
After collecting the data, the team found that almost all of the students agreed to having positive friendship experiences within the past year (Demir, Özen, & Dogan 660). Upon evaluating the data further, they found a direct correlation between these joyful experiences and close friendships, which ultimately supports an increased level of “percieved mattering” towards a friend and “predicts happiness” on campus (661). The similarity of data in both Japan, Turkey, and the U.S. may also prove that cultural implications hold little weight in friendship, and positive benefits can be seen regardless of nationality. As such, maintaining close interpersonal friendships can exceptionally maximize one’s happiness.
Additionally, striving for success in academics and other intellectual goals holds significant weight in fostering a sense of happiness. The idea of academic success is not simply connected to tangible concepts like careers and monetary gain, rather, it is a bridge to stimulating a deep thirst for knowledge, which builds a path to life-long learning and pursuit of higher education. Subsequently, this can one the confidence and self-determination needed to tackle his own goals and climb the ladder into spiritual wellness, as defined by Maslow. Moreover, a clear link between academic success and happiness is drawn through a 2007 research study conducted on a group of fifth grade students from a small U.S.
town, in which several IQ tests were administered to each child leading into their sixth grade year to examine growth in happiness and well-being compared to baseline IQ and GPA. It was seen, overall, that the students who earned the highest grades tended to score higher on the IQ test and were described by their teachers to be harder workers. Additionally, these higher performing students tended to report higher levels of well-being compared to their peers of the same age who scored lower on the IQ test and held lower grades. In the long term, these students, who were seen to have better happiness levels, reported higher levels of life satisfaction upon the end of sixth grade and were observed to have better attitudes towards school and teachers (Duckworth & Quinn).
As such, it can be said that those who perform well in school do so because they are happier, and by the same token, performing well academically can positively impact happiness and the pursuit of achievement. Fig. 1. Quinn, Patrick D., and Angela L.
Duckworth. “Final Sixth Grade GPA as a Function of Happiness.” Happiness and Academic Achievement, vol. 24, American Psychological Society, 2007. Most important, arguably, in attaining happiness and personal security is attaining a satisfactory level of socioeconomic security. In “Money doesn’t buy happiness, but It helps,” two groups of 51 very low-income families and 61 middle-income families were examined to elucidate the average happiness of each group given their socioeconomic status and how these values compare with the other group. In doing so, they utilized the Dyadic Adjustment Scale and Brief Symptom Inventory scales to draw data from each group and use the given scores to compare the correlation of money to happiness.
Through conducting several trials, they found that economic well being does directly involve income. On average, middle-income families scored lower on the Brief Symptom Inventory, in which higher scores indicate greater severity of general lifestyle issues, and higher on the Dyadic Adjustment Scale, meaning that they were better acclimated to the climates they lived in socially. Though, on average, the average level of familial issues and divorce levels were the same in both groups, the lower income group did report better familial support and security. The middle-class families also tended to be more well educated and in better general health, however. In any case, lower-income families reported being more dissatisfied with their condition compared to middle-class families.
Thus, they were able to prove that money does correlate to happiness, to some extent. Such a measure is no mistake, either, as areas known to have high socioeconomic thriving and middle-class status tend to be happier. In a study conducted on the Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Sweden, Finland), it was seen that they have consistently ranked among the happiest of countries in the world, despite the fact that they are taxed at very high rates and live in seemingly barren climates. Upon further examination, researchers found that the high GDP per capita of these nations was the primary factors contributing to their levels of happiness (“Happiness and the Nordic Model”). As such, it can be deduced that happiness is linked to one’s country of origin and its given socioeconomic status.
In total, it is clear to see that, though it seems counterintuitive, money can generally buy happiness and secure a better life. In this day and age, it is a truth that not everyone can be truly happy in any situation unless it is stolen from a second party. Such is the foundation of our nation, and the universaltiy of this is seen through multiple individual factors. In order to attain a state of real happiness, one must craft meaningful interpersonal friendships, attain success in academia and goal achievement, and secure socioeconomic stability. Expert opinions as well as personal opinions dictate a clear trend between such variables and happiness, and it inevitably causes systematic oppression to a particular group at the benefit of another. However, Lady Liberty’s beacon of hope ensures equal opportunity for all to overcome this adversity, and through securing these basic factors through continual effort, one can be assured that they can remain happy for the rest of their life.