Michael on April 3rd, 2008
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In Down the Tube: the Sad Stats On Happiness, Money and TV, Jonathan Clements provides the highlights of a study questioning why, despite four decades of economic gains, people are not significantly happier now. Broadly, I learned that there are three main components to my (and apparently your) happiness:

  1. Your personal disposition. This is how you’re wired (to be generally a happy person or not). There’s not much you can do about this one.
  2. Your life circumstances, like how much “stuff” you can afford, your health, and family life. Important? You bet. But even with good fortune in these areas, you become accustomed to it and so over the long-term your happiness is not sustainable based on your circumstances.
  3. How you spend your time. Turns out, this is the big one.

Despite the fact that changes in the world have created more leisure time, we don’t take advantage of it as we could. For that matter, we don’t care of it as we should. The research shows that the real driver of happiness is what we do during the precious hours each week when we legitimately can choose our activities.

Turns out, for many people, their choice is incessantly reading blogs which makes them miserable. (Just kidding.) Where many people actually spend their hours is in front of the television. Unfortunately, unlike a workout, charitable activity, or socializing with a friend, watching TV doesn’t make us any happier.

You: But–

Yes, even when the repeats finally stop now that the writers’ strike is over.

At times, I know I can spend a couple of hours with the TV on myself (especially recently as I walk my newborn around the room incessantly during the witching hours). Despite the fact that I can somehow remember obscure tax facts from four years ago, I can’t seem to remember that I actually saw a particular episode of Law & Order from four days ago. Some days, for what it’s worth, I think an hour of TV is exactly what I need. But there are other days when it’s probably not. I usually know that and avoid the temptation by only turning it on when I actually want to watch something.
Happy? What’s your solution? How much TV do you watch? On your happiest days, how much TV did you watch?

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3 Comments to “Is television making you miserable?”

  1. Nora says:

    I’m a quality control operator, employed in post production. My job involves watching tapes of films and television programs, to check for audio and video problems. You could say that I watch TV for a living.

    Does this make me a happier person. No necessarily. Does it bring me down? Frequently.

    Get out and do things, meet people and engage with the real world. That’s where happiness lies.

  2. Michael says:

    Well said, Nora, from someone who ought to know!

  3. FChristie says:

    This article points to a study that convinces us that people are doing everything they can to attain happiness. Question is, are they succeeding? I look around me at my own life and listen to others present their story and I wonder about the meaning of life. What is my purpose here and now?
    The research states that, “The study showed that people were generally happy in activities that the authors described as “’engaging leisure and spiritual activities’ – things like visiting friends, exercising, attending church, listening to music, fishing, reading a book, sitting in a cafe or going to a party” – and that people choose to undertake such activities, instead of doing them out of necessity.
    Moreover, the study mentioned watching TV as taking a lot more of people’s time than the above-mentioned activities did in the past, and that if we spent more time on the “engaging leisure and spiritual activities,” we would then have a more satisfying life.”

    I investigated, over many years, the numbing question of existence. How was happiness to be achieved? What was I missing? I looked everywhere and finally found some encouraging answers through the science of Kabbalah. Of particular interest was the work of Rav Michael Laitman PhD. He has a unique take on the subject of the article.

    Rav Laitman states in a comment on his blog that , “Soon we will start finding out that even these activities will leave us empty and unfulfilled. We will search for fulfillment in all kinds of places, until we arrive at our last desire: the desire to discover the meaning of life, through the attainment of the Creator.”

    Related material can be found on Rav’s site located at http://www.laitman.com/2008/04.....ying-life/ .

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