I was listening to a radio discussion: some academic was talking about the ratio between income and perceived happiness. In other words, your chances of feeling generally happy about yourself depends to a certain (and she claimed important) amount on your income. Specifically, she found that middle income people ($45,000 – 90,000, her figures) were happier than those living on less as well as those bringing in more. It sort of boiled down to, as she saw it, those who have less wanting that which most people have; the great amount of people in the middle only bothered by little deviances to their perceived standards; those with nearly everything still not satisfied and looking to get what seemed to be missing.

I don’t know what “happiness” she was trying to quantify, it sounded shallow to me. Satisfaction that depends on what you have, on what you buy, on your financial worth, can’t be rooted very deep and may ultimately lead to deeper dissatisfaction. I took a look at myself to see what was creating my personal happiness.

I’m in her lowest income range, so I should be unhappy. I haven’t got  … you name it and either I don’t have, or have less, etcetera. But I’m satisfied with who I am, what I do. This weekend was a good example about the variations that make up my happiness.

Friday evening I went to a concert. Not because it was the place to be, to be seen but because the performer’s music had struck a chord with me so I made time to see and hear her live. Saturday morning I went for a hike; not a long or strenuous one, but with friends to enjoy nature (in the winter snow), get some exercise for my well-being, and the sense of community, being part of something greater than myself (something I need because I live by myself). Saturday afternoon I went to a poetry workshop; the time was spent discussing matters I like, things I find important, getting and giving reactions to artistic endeavors. Sunday afternoon I went for a stroll in a park, watching birds and squirrels, enjoying the laughter of children sliding down a snowy slope. I spent some time and effort playing repeated patterns on my mandolin (what some might call practicing) and enjoying that. Activities that were necessary like cooking a meal and snow removal from the walk were chores but not unpleasant. I was content. No, I was more than content, I was happy.

You’ll notice this happiness and what brought it about had nothing to do with money or income, no competition about mine versus yours, no snobbish “well, I’m …”  Happiness is not a state of being. It’s not something you automatically are under a certain set of circumstances (like level of income).

Happiness, for me, is the product of doing, the result of activity. Action is happiness, especially action with or for other people. I really can not consider circumstances where my happiness would depend on financial matters. Even while taking the most luxurious vacation imaginable, I would have to work hard at doing with and for people to find a measure of happiness. It depends on the effort and the motivation.

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