If you’re happy and you know it…..How important is it to be happy?

I’ve always regarded personal happiness the way I’ve regarded good luck. Not being unhappy and not having bad luck can, on occasions, be quite a reasonable condition to be in. But our personal happiness is now attracting wider attention and so I was interested to read the Joint Joseph Rowntree Foundation/University of York Annual Lecture 2011 given by Richard Layard.

These are just my very brief notes; to read the full lecture, the link is at the end.

One should accept that the best society is one where there is the most happiness and the least misery. Yet, despite improvements in our standards of living, measured happiness in Britain and US no higher than in 1950s.

So how should we live to produce the most happiness in world and the least misery?

Well, this is the pledge of new movement called Action for Happiness.

The lecture goes on to talk about the impact of happiness on: income, human relationships, altruism and work. It also gives some information on the organisation Action for Happiness.

Again, briefly, are some of the points:


Richer people are happier than poorer people.

Rich societies are richer but not happier.

Relative income (to others) is what people care about.


Quality matters; we are happier if other people are on our side.

Can people be trusted? Only 30% in UK and US think so. It was 60% 40 years ago and is still 60% in Scandinavia.

Excessive individualism causes the problems.


Virtue can be its own reward. If you want to feel good, do good.

You cannot feel compassion for others unless you feel compassion for yourself.


When employees are asked to keep work diaries for research purposes, they show that they are the least happy when spending time with their boss.

3 main factors make work satisfying:

Doing challenging work you can manage.

Having control in how you do the work.

Feeling the work is purposeful and has a wider value.

(There is an interesting example of a successful people based employer in the lecture.)

 Action for Happiness

If you want to find 10 keys for happier living and and 50 actions you can take, go to the Action for Happiness website: www.actionforhappiness.org. To read the lecture in full, go to the Joseph Rowntree website: www.jrf.org.uk


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