In “Why We’re Happy” (Reader’s Digest, July 2008) Arthur C. Brooks lays out a list of happiness predictors. Here’s a quick summary:
1) Faith. Attending a place of worship once a week or more, which may have something to do with social contact. Hmm, does the gym count? Lots of people worship there.
2) Work. It makes you feel needed and productive. “Job satisfaction is nearly equivalent to life satisfaction.”
3) Marriage and family. “While 50 percent of married people of faith who have children consider themselves to be very happy, only 17 percent of nonreligious, unmarried people without kids feel the same way.”
4) Charity. It’s true: ’Tis better to give than to receive. (See Arnold’s quote at the end of this item.)
5) Freedom. People are happier with unlimited moral choices. It’s the foundation of democracy.
So happiness is not about having a lot of things but having healthful values, according to Brooks. A quote by Arnold Schwarzenegger is included that sums it up: “Being passionate about something is the key to success. But using that passion to help others is the key to happiness.” Well said.