See Inside February/March 2007

Why It's So Hard to Be Happy

The pursuit of happiness drives much of what we do, but achieving it always seems just out of reach

What would make you happier? Perhaps a bigger house or a better car; a sexier or more understanding mate; surely, wealth and fame. Or maybe you would simply be happy with finishing everything on your to-do list. Well, stop deluding yourself. Psychological research suggests that none of these things is very likely to increase your happiness significantly.

Take money, for example. Using data from the 2000 U.S. Census, David G. Myers documented an interesting discrepancy between wealth and happiness. Myers, a psychologist at Hope College in Holland, Mich., found that the buying power of the average American had tripled since 1950. So were Americans three times happier in 2000 than 50 years earlier?

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