Richard Layard explains our changing relationships with happiness in this article and the ideas around action for happiness.
‘Our living standards are unprecedented but our happiness is no higher than fifty years ago. That is the bad news, which reliable surveys reveal. The good news is that happiness depends mainly on the quality of our human relationships and our philosophy of life and these can be improved.
In our present society there is far too much seeking for personal success relative to others. But that is a zero-sum game, where one person’s success implies another’s failure. In a healthy society, we promote the good of others where we all gain, both she that gives and she that gets.
That is why we are launching a mass movement called Action for Happiness in 2011. It will be a movement for radical cultural change, towards a more caring society based not on the hair-shirt but on the well-established neurological finding that those who do things to make others happy also become happier themselves.
Members of the movement will make a commitment to try to create more happiness and less unhappiness in the world around them. They will be supported by a website providing inspiration and practical ideas for happier living, drawn from ancient wisdom and modern science. Members will be encouraged to form groups through which, step by step, we hope to change the world for the better. Please join us at actionforhappiness.org.
The Chinese tell of two groups of people who were given 4-feet long chop-sticks. One group starved because they could not feed themselves. The other flourished, because they were feeding each other’.
By Richard Layard 2011 published in then school of life blog