Are you happy?

Most people are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
— Abraham Lincoln

“[I]f you want to know the absolutely most miserable Zip Code—and this is based on a very large number of people—it seems to start with 101.”

That’s the prefix assigned to many of the office buildings in midtown Manhattan. “Staten Island is also miserable,” he [Chris Peterson, of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania] adds.

So what does this say about New York? I ask.

“I don’t know,” he says. “Maybe that if you make it there, you can make it anywhere, but you won’t be happy doing it.”
. . .
Smarter people aren’t any happier, but those who drink in moderation are. Attractive people are slightly happier than unattractive people. Men aren’t happier than women, though women have more highs and more lows. Surprisingly, the young are not happier than the elderly; in fact, it’s the other way round, with older people reporting slightly higher levels of life satisfaction and fewer dark days.

Money doesn’t buy happiness–or even upgrade despair, as the playwright Richard Greenberg once wrote–once our basic needs are met. In one well-known survey, Ed Diener of the University of Illinois determined that those on the Forbes 100 list in 1995 were only slightly happier than the American public as a whole; in an even more famous study, in 1978, a group of researchers determined that 22 lottery winners were no happier than a control group (leading one of the authors, Philip Brickman, to coin the scarily precise phrase “hedonic treadmill,” the unending hunger for the next acquisition).

Some Dark Thoughts on Happiness: More and more psychologists and researchers believe they know what makes people happy. But the question is, does a New Yorker want to be happy?” by Jennifer Senior, New York Magazine, July 17, 2006

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