The American Emphasis on the Pursuit of Happiness
The pursuit of happiness is described in the Declaration of Independence as an inalienable right. People are encouraged to make life choices based on what makes them happy and satisfied. Aristotle described happiness as the meaning and purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence. American Culture and Happiness
The American pursuit of happiness can seem as elusive as achieving it. We want to be happy, and we can say whether we are or not we are happy, but can it really be defined, studied, and measured? Psychologists and research says yes, and there is good reason to do so. Happiness is highly individualized and influenced by culture, what makes Americans happy does not necessarily make other cultures happy. Americans express unique internal attributes that distinguish them from others, a positive view of self that enhances self-esteem. A person’s subjective well-being can be described as a combination of life satisfaction and having more positive emotions than negative emotions. Happiness can be measured as having three parts: pleasure, engagement, and meaning. Pleasure is the “feel good” part of happiness. Engagement refers to living a “good life” of work, family, friends, and hobbies. Meaning refers to using our strengths to contribute to a larger purpose (Wallis, 2005). One of the biggest issues in happiness research is the question of how much our happiness is under our control. In 1996 University of Minnesota researcher David Lykken published a paper looking at the role of genes in determining one's sense of satisfaction in life. Lykken gathered information on 4,000 sets of twins born in Minnesota from 1936 through 1955. After comparing happiness data on identical vs. fraternal twins, he came to the conclusion that about 50% of one's satisfaction with life comes from genetic programming; Genes influence such traits as having a sunny, easygoing personality; dealing well with stress; and feeling...
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