Expereinced Well-Being

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I was reading this amazing book, “Thinking Fast and Slow” it’s a gem. I am going to quote a whole page from the book because this page answer few important questions like, how to make someone jealous, how to attract people you want to attract, which I will explain later. Read carefully:

We called the percentage of time that an individual spends in an unpleasant state the U-index. For example, an individual who spent 4 hours of a 16-hour working day in an unpleasant state would have a U-index of 25%. The appeal of the U-index is that it is based not on a rating scale but on an objective measurement of time. If the U-index for a population drops from 20% to 18%, you can infer that the total time that the population spent in emotional discomfort or pain has diminished by a tenth.

A striking observation was the extent of inequality in the distribution of emotional pain. About half our participants reported going through an entire day without experiencing an unpleasant episode. On the other hand, a significant minority of the population experienced considerable emotional distress for much of the day. It appears that a small fraction of the population does most of the suffering – whether because of physical or mental illness, an unhappy temperament, or the misfortune and personal tragedies in their life.

A U-index can also be computed for activities. For example, we can measure the proportion of time that people spend in a negative emotional state while commuting, working, or interacting with their parents, spouses, or children. For 1,000 American women in a Midwestern city, the U-index was 29% for the morning commute, 27% for child care, 18% for housework, 12% for socializing, 12% for TV watching, and 5% for sex. The u-index was higher by about 6 % on weekdays than it was on weekends, mostly because on weekends people spend less time on activities they dislike and do not suffer the tension and stress associated with work. The biggest surprise was the emotional experience of the time spent with the one’s children, which for American women was slightly less enjoyable than doing housework. Here we found one of the few contrasts between American and French women. French women spend time with their children but enjoy it more, perhaps because they have more access to child care and spend less of the afternoon driving children to various activities.

An individual mood at any moment depends on her temperament and overall happiness, but emotional wellbeing also fluctuate considerably over the day and the week. The mood of the moment depends primarily on the current situation. Mood at work, for example, is largely unaffected by the factors that influence general job satisfaction, including benefits and status. More important are the situational factors such as an opportunity to socialize with coworkers, exposers to loud noise, time pressure (a significant source of negative affect), and the immediate presence of the boss (in our first study, the only thing that was worse than being alone). Attention is key. Our emotional state is largely determined by what we attained to, and we are normally focused on our current activity and immediate environment. There are exceptions, where the quality of the subjective experienced is dominated by recurrent thoughts rather than by the events of the moment. When happily in love, we may feel joy even when caught in traffic, and if grieving we may feel depressed when watching a funny movie. In normal circumstances, however, we draw pleasure and pain from what is happening at the moment. If we attained to it. To get pleasure from eating, you must notice that you are doing it. We found that French and American women spent about the same amount of time eating, but for French women, eating was twice as likely to be focal as it was for American women. The Americans was for more prone to combine eating with other activities, and their pleasure from eating was correspondingly diluted.

These observation have implications for both individuals and society. The use of time is one of the area of life over which people have some control. Few individuals can will themselves to have a sunnier disposition, but some may be able to arrange there life to spend less of their day commuting, and more time doing things they enjoy with people they like. The feeling associated with different activities suggest that another way to improve experience is to switch time from passive leisure, such as TV watching, to more active form of the leisure, including socializing and exercise. From the social perspective, improved transportation for the labor force, availability of child care for working women, and improve socializing opportunities for the elderly may be relatively efficient way to reduce the U-index of the society-even a reduction of one percent should be a significant achievement, amounting to millions of hour of avoided suffering. Combine national survey of time use and of experienced well-being can inform social policies in multiple ways. The economist on our team, Alan Krueger, took the lead in an effort to introduce the element of this method into the national statistics.

It is only a slight exaggeration to say that happiness is the experience of spending time with people you love and who love you.

Sever poverty amplifies the experienced effects of other misfortunes of life. In particular, illness is much worse for the very poor than for those who are more comfortable. A headache increases the proportion reporting sadness and worry from 19% to 38% for individuals in top two-thirds of the income distribution. The corresponding number of the poorest tenth are 38% to 70% – a higher baseline level and a much larger increase. Significant difference between the very poor and others are also found for the effect of divorce and loneliness. Furthermore, the beneficial effects of the weekend on experienced well-being are significantly smaller for the most poor than for most everyone else.

The satisfaction level beyond which satisfaction level no longer increases was a household income of about $75,000 in high cost areas (it could be less in areas where the cost of living is lower). The average increase of experienced well-being associated with incomes beyond that level was precisely zero.

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