Tuesday, July 21, 2009

For Happiness, Lower Your Expectations

July 19, 2009, 6:00 pm

Lowered Expectations

Mysterious are the ways of human happiness, as anyone who has surveyed the perplexing, often contradictory research findings can attest. But one nugget in particular truly boggles: Denmark is the happiest nation in the world. More than two-thirds of Danes report being “very satisfied with their lives,” according to the Eurobarometer Survey, a figure that has held steady for more than 30 years. True, Danes tend to be healthy, married and active — all contributing factors to happiness. But why, researchers wondered, are Danes happier than Finns and Swedes, who share many of these traits, not to mention a similar culture and climate?

The answer is, in a word, expectations. Danes have low expectations and so “year after year they are pleasantly surprised to find out that not everything is rotten in the state of Denmark,” says James W. Vaupel, a demographer who has investigated Danish bliss.

About once a year, some new study confirms Denmark’s status as a happiness superpower. Danes receive this news warily, with newspaper headlines that invariably read: “We’re the happiest lige nu.” Lige nu is a Danish phrase that means literally “just now” but strongly connotes a sense of “for the time being but probably not for long.” Danes, in other words, harbor low expectations about everything, including their own happiness... Read more

The Puppy Diaries

I live for this sort of stuff.
* via The New York Times, a new weekly series about the challenges and satisfactions of raising a puppy through its first year of life.