Can Government Make You Happy?
Officials in one Boston suburb are the first to move beyond the traditional measure of success—economic growth—and track their citizens' happiness as a measure of wellbeing.
What's the Latest Development?
Citizens of Somerville, a suburb of Boston, rated their own level of happiness on the city's census forms this spring. On a scale of 1 to 10, they were asked, "How happy do you feel right now?" The addition of the happiness survey to the census was "a no-brainer," according to the city's mayor, Joseph A. Curtatone. "Cities keep careful track of their finances, but a bond rating doesn't tell us how people feel or why they want to raise a family here or relocate a business here,” Mr. Curtatone said. Harvard psychology professor Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, is donating his time to advise the government on its happiness survey.
What's the Big Idea?
Can government policies make people happy? Or is that too soft a metric for what should be the serious business of executives and legislators? A novel approach to social policy is taking shape outside of Boston: Creating government programs to directly benefit the happiness levels of citizens, like new biking paths and recreational centers, rather than promoting wellbeing indirectly through economic policy. As most "indicators" of happiness are economic data, such as a family's yearly income, this new approach represents a fundamental shift in priorities relative to how we see our own wellbeing.
To create wiser adults, add empathy to the school curriculum.
- Stories are at the heart of learning, writes Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Executive Director for the Global Oneness Project. They have always challenged us to think beyond ourselves, expanding our experience and revealing deep truths.
- Vaughan-Lee explains 6 ways that storytelling can foster empathy and deliver powerful learning experiences.
- Global Oneness Project is a free library of stories—containing short documentaries, photo essays, and essays—that each contain a companion lesson plan and learning activities for students so they can expand their experience of the world.
An extinction events expert sounds a dire warning.
- The supervolcano in Yellowstone National Park could cause an "ultra-catastrophe," warns an extinction events writer.
- The full eruption of the volcano last happened 640,000 years ago.
- The blast could kill billions and make United States uninhabitable.
Just before I turned 60, I discovered that sharing my story by drawing could be an effective way to both alleviate my symptoms and combat that stigma.
I've lived much of my life with anxiety and depression, including the negative feelings – shame and self-doubt – that seduced me into believing the stigma around mental illness: that people knew I wasn't good enough; that they would avoid me because I was different or unstable; and that I had to find a way to make them like me.
A joint study by two England universities explores the link between sex and cognitive function with some surprising differences in male and female outcomes in old age.
- A joint study by the universities of Coventry and Oxford in England has linked sexual activity with higher cognitive abilities in older age.
- The results of this study suggest there are significant associations between sexual activity and number sequencing/word recall in men. In women, however, there was a significant association between sexual activity in word recall alone - number sequencing was not impacted.
- The differences in testosterone (the male sex hormone) and oxytocin (a predominantly female hormone) may factor into why the male cognitive level changes much more during sexual activity in older age.
Mathematicians studied 100 billion tweets to help computer algorithms better understand our colloquial digital communication.