are we living in a post

Posted by fierce at 2020-03-25

News analysis With happiness harder to come by these days, people are grasping at any moment of joy they can get. Video Sept. 28, 2019 Joy, it seems, is everywhere these days. It is used to sell boxes at Ikea. It is included in ads for drinks at McDonald’s and as a prescriptive for female hygiene. There are T-shirts that tout joy as “an act of resistance.” There is the “Chasing Joy” podcast. And a number of books are being published this year devoted to joyful living, including marriage, productivity, even how to live more like Hugh Jackman. But if joy is everywhere, why does happiness feel so elusive? Haven’t we learned anything since 2014 when Marie Kondo taught us that cleaning our closets was a path to bliss? Well, so much has changed since then. Politics in the era of President Trump has divided Americans into two camps: angry and angrier. Our world is threatened by climate change. And the booming United States economy is showing signs of fatigue. So, are we living in a post-happiness world? According to the World Happiness Report, which ranks 156 countries based on inhabitants’ perception and well-being, happiness in the United States is declining. Americans said they were less content in 2018 than a year earlier, ranking No. 19 behind Australia and Canada. The 24-hour news cycle, combined with the onslaught of natural disasters, social upheaval and political strife, has left Americans exhausted. Worse, the agita shows no sign of abating; psychologists suggest anxiety is on the rise. Joy, by contrast, is delight in moments that, by their nature, are fleeting. “I don’t need to be happy to feel joy,” Ms. Fetell Lee said. Joy can be inspired by something as simple as tossing confetti or taking a walk outdoors. She added, “I don’t have to worry about making everything awesome in my life.” Michelle Shiota, an associate professor of social psychology at Arizona State University, tried an experiment last January. “I started to do a diary of ‘a moment of joy’ per day,” said Dr. Shiota, who goes by Lani. “I lasted until mid-February. Then I was toast.” Tabulating a daily moment was overwhelming. And joy can be found in quiet, she said. “It shouldn’t always mean high arousal.” Social media, though, has hastened a cultural shift toward instantaneous gratification. “We’ve moved more to a microview of well-being, having positivity in the minute,” said Dacher Keltner, director of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. And that makes him wonder, “Are we just careening from moment to moment?” While seeking joy can be uplifting, Dr. Shiota said, it should not mask emotions like anger, sadness and disappointment. “What people call negative emotions are a symptom that something is wrong and we have to change,” she said. “We learn from them.” Today, researchers find it troubling that businesses have co-opted joy to market soda pop, productivity planners and storage containers. “Contentment is the next growth industry,” Dr. Keltner said. “Marketers will tell you buying things will make you happy even though the opposite is true.” A 2017 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that people who spent money on things that helped them save time — delivery or cleaning services, for example — were more satisfied than if they bought baubles or expensive wine. Having more free time helped reduce stress, the study found. But Dr. Keltner said something else is making happiness harder to attain: a lack of togetherness. He pointed to churches and other religious congregations, which have historically been central to a community’s integrity. “Church gave you awe, joy and ecstasy,” Dr. Keltner said. “You collected in a group. You sang a little. You gave money. You got to chant.” With the rise of Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites, virtual communities are replacing real-world gatherings. With it, the way we relate to one another is changing too. “Awe and laughter have been undermined,” Dr. Keltner said. “We don’t have the means to physically gather like we used to.” Does Ms. Fetell Lee believe Americans are living in a post-happiness era? No, she said. But she has observed a shift. “I don’t think about happiness anymore,” she said. “I think about joy. And if you string together enough moments of joy, maybe you can have a happy life.”