Happiness Is….A Balloon?

balloons_2932164542_b122726211_zI’ve finished week one of the Coursera course, “A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment.” Following are highlights, observations, and insights.

Defining and Measuring Happiness

Happiness is one of those things that we know when we feel it and we know when we see it in others. But other than saying it’s an emotion or state of being, what is happiness?

Host Raj promises a more definitive definition in upcoming sessions, but offered this definition and a handy metaphor.

Happiness means being lighthearted and joyful; challenges don’t sap the joys of life.

Not a very crisp and definitive definition at this point.

The metaphor offered is a bit better in my opinion. Raj likens happiness to a balloon we carry. The degree of happiness one feels is the size of the balloon; everyone around us and close to us can see that we’re happy by the size of the balloon. So, think of being happy as carrying a big balloon, but wait, what if the balloon springs a leak?

That’s where bad habits come in. Raj calls them happiness sins, and in future sessions will define seven of them. These sins are the habits we have that puncture our happiness balloons. The more bad happiness habits, the more holes in our happiness balloon, and the faster the balloon shrinks.

What to do? Well, we can pump up the balloon faster than it leaks by practicing good happiness habits, sustaining a large balloon over time.

In the next sessions of the class we’ll begin learning how to reduce the number of happiness sins we have and increase the number of good happiness habits.

Can happiness be measured scientifically?

Dr. Happiness, Ed Diener

One of the videos included a guest appearance by noted positive psychologist Edward Diener, aka Dr. Happiness. Diener indicated that a large number of studies show the most effective means of measuring happiness is by asking oneself and one’s close family and friends. Diener’s happiness measuring survey is well-proven and utilized as the gold standard of happiness measurement.

There are many versions of this tool available, so you can assess your own happiness level without taking the course. Search for “Diener happiness test” and you’ll find plenty of information.

My happiness score was 31 out of a possible 35, reflecting that I’m a pretty happy guy, though with some room for improvement.

Reinforcing the benefits of taking this course and working toward greater happiness, Diener indicated that greater happiness correlates with career success, higher earnings, longevity, and happier marriages.

Course Delivery Observations

Week one videos were lighthearted, humorous, and brief. Each lasted around ten minutes, making it easy to watch whenever I had a few minutes. If I had to stop before finishing a session it resumed where I left off.

An extensive list of optional reading provided ample opportunities to research the topics covered this week.


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