I started my Saturday morning listening to a debate about happiness and whether or not it's recent growth as a consultants tool and in self help books was useful or not. I've always had an issue with the enforced happiness and play brigade because the minute I'm told I'm going to be doing something for fun or to make me happy, I immediately think it's going to be bad, which makes me unhappy.
To me, happiness and fun are a byproduct of a thing done well, a bit like money is a byproduct of doing good work. The minute you start designing just for fun or for money you are almost guaranteed to mess up (in my humble opinion). Andre Spicer mentioned the time when happiness as a tool became a thing, he suggested it was around the time of the last big financial crash, a time when other things that normally made us happy were disappearing. It was around this time when companies started to employ consultants to help staff feel happy, at a time when a lot of these people were on the verge of losing their jobs.
Andre Spicer considers the pursuit of happiness as an empty ritual especially when it's enforced or by command. This goes along with some of my thoughts over the past few years encountering consultants preaching about happiness in the workplace. He went on to say that it backfires for a number of reasons which I didn't completely understand or agree with. Apparently happy people are more slapdash and take more risks (taking risk is not always a bad thing unless you are a surgeon). They are more lonely and become more selfish. They also become desensitised to things that used to make them happy.
Sophie Scott talked about there being no such thing as happiness as a single emotion. She described what she considers to be 4 different types of emotions that make up happiness, they are achievement, relief, sexual and amusement. Laughter is a very basic human emotion, it's more likely to happen with others, and in her research she has found its hardly ever about jokes.
Paul Dolan spoke about context. He suggested environments should be designed to make you happy without you ever having to think about it and I agree with him. The more you have to think about being happy, the less likely you will be happy.
One of my favourite things he said was this, "Misery loves company". It's so true, and I'm sure most would have witnessed this in action, especially if you've ever been involved in a happiness workshop.