The Happiness Show was set up by someone called George Ortega, who wrote the following essay on the coming Age of Happiness. I think its a great high-water-mark of the happiness craze of the last decade, which presumably is coming to an end now, to be replaced by something more serious and suitably credit-crunchy like the Stoic Age or the Age of Resilience.
Anyway, heres the essay:
Humankind’s Age of Happiness
by George Ortega
This short treatise will show how over the past 50 years, humanity has amassed a body of scientific knowledge about happiness that our world can now use to relatively easily and inexpensively lift our global happiness from its current level of under 65% to a much happier 85% or higher within a decade. This achievement will be tantamount to the creation of a new historic Age of Human Happiness.
Happiness studies date back as far as 1930 when Goodwin Watson published a paper called “Happiness Among Adult Students of Education,” It was not until 1957, however, that a true science of happiness began. In that year, Alden E. Wessman published his doctoral dissertation titled “A Psychological Inquiry Into Satisfactions and Happiness.” An increasing number of published studies on happiness followed throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
In the mid ’70s, Michael Fordyce, a professor from Fort Myers, Florida, concluded that the science of happiness had collected enough consistent data to justify a giant leap forward. Predicting that individuals could be taught to become much happier though classroom instruction based on happiness research findings, Fordyce conducted the world’s first happiness-increase experiment.
His “Development of a Program to Increase Personal Happiness,” published in 1977 in The Journal of Counseling Psychology, demonstrated conclusively that by receiving a few weeks of instruction, individuals could become much happier. Because of its significance to humankind’s highest goal of happiness, this pioneering study is destined to rank among the most important scientific works of all time.
Michael Fordyce created a distinct field of “Happiness-Increase Psychology” that is the most effective and direct means humankind has yet developed to achieve what English philosopher Jeremy Bentham described in 1769 as “the greatest happiness of the greatest number.”Thirty years after Fordyce developed his powerful happiness-increase program, our world is experiencing an historic epiphany regarding the primacy happiness holds in our lives, both as individuals and as a global society.
In 1998, Martin Seligman, then president of the American Psychological Association, founded the Positive Psychology movement whose research focus revives a long dormant recognition going back to the A.P.A.’s first president, Raymond Dodge, that “happiness is an important, if not the most important, aim of human endeavor.” With this enormously popular redirection in psychology, a new generation of researchers led by Sonja Lyubomirsky has emerged to advance the happiness-increase interventions that Fordyce pioneered.
Recognizing that this renaissance in happiness research was destined to create a wide consumer demand for happiness, from 2003-05, Seligman and his colleague, Ben Dean, trained about 1,000 individuals to market one-to-one happiness coaching. Also in 2003, the author of this treatise created the world’s first television program entirely about happiness; The Happiness Show.
To disseminate happiness information as widely as possible, he has made virtually all of its over 130 half-hour episodes available for free digital download and free broadcast by television stations throughout in the world. Highlighting the public’s new interest in happiness, on January 17, 2005, Time magazine published a cover story on “The New Science of Happiness” that spanned 64 pages, and became the magazine’s most requested back issue. In a world dominated by an insatiable quest for wealth, the preeminent role of happiness in our lives is also being forcefully promoted by top economists and business leaders.
In 2005, Sir Richard Layard, founder of Europe’s leading economic institution, The London School of Economics’ Centre for Economic Performance, published a book titled Happiness that strongly advocates a shift in our global mindset from economics and materialism to the happiness at the heart of those desires. Here we are in 2007, and happiness seems to be reaching the critical mass that Malcolm Gladwell describes in his book, The Tipping Point, as presaging major changes in our personal and societal landscapes.An Age of Human Happiness is being born as people all over the world experience the revelation that behind all of the money, success, prestige, knowledge, security and health, we strive for lies the singular goal of greater happiness.
A widening understanding that dramatic increases in happiness are readily and inexpensively at hand by individuals completing eight to twelve hours of happiness instruction over the course of eight to twelve weeks represents a second major component of, and catalyst to, an emerging worldwide happiness movement. Happiness is now being seen as more than the goal of every product we buy, but a product in its own right. The business community is gearing up to meet a new consumer market for greater happiness through scientifically proven classroom and personal training.
As businesses begin to advertise this new product through television commercials, infomercials, and other venues, consumer demand for greater happiness through training should grow exponentially.Other sectors of society are beginning to appreciate the growing body of happiness research demonstrating that as people become happier they become more healthy, energetic, productive, creative, cooperative, compassionate, etc. In 2006, the most popular course at Harvard University was a course on happiness.
Happiness instruction is beginning to be adopted by schools to improve academic performance, and will be a part of British public school curriculums beginning in 2008. Ideas have their time, and the time for a global Age of Happiness appears to be at hand. As citizens of our world’s rich countries experience their happiness level rising from its current 70% to a level of 85% and higher (Over 20% of Americans are already at least 85% happy.), something very wonderful should begin to happen. Having achieved their cherished goal, happier masses are likely to turn their attention to the needs of the less fortunate.
One of the strongest findings in happiness research is that above the poverty line money’s ability to create greater happiness is marginal. Below that line, however, money to acquire basic needs is far more instrumental to happiness. About one billion people in our world live in an extreme poverty that takes their children’s lives at the rate of 29,000 each day. As the international community acknowledged more than 30 years ago, all that is necessary to save the vast majority of those lives is for the world’s 22 richest countries to devote one percent of their annual income to this most urgent of humanity’s problems.
Regrettably, those rich countries now collectively devote less than one half of one percent of their income each year to ending this needless suffering and death. Once their population’s needs for shelter, clothing, and food are met, and they are helped in creating self-sustaining economies, the poorest countries in our world will join the developed world in this historic happiness revolution. When that happens, our world will be rewarded for its compassion with the most wonderful achievement of all humankind; A Global Age of Happiness.