Happy

Today, the last Monday before payday in the worst month of the calendar is, I think I remember, supposed to be one of the most depressing days of the year, according to an algorithm designed to assess degrees of bitterness, and rolled out by the papers (and now the OISE Cambridge Blog) every year. It is second in misery only to the first Monday of January.

It is nonsense of course. Monday, January, pay day – none of these make any substantial difference. As Dan Gilbert, the Harvard psychologist and author of Stumbling on Happiness, points out in this talk he gave on TED, we tend vastly to over-estimate the effect of events on our future or current happiness.

Gilbert calls it the Impact Bias. Your experiencing self, a year from now, will be neither more nor less happy than it is today, regardless of whether you experience an accident that confines you to a wheelchair, or a lottery win. It will make no difference.

Having said all that, I notice that I have posted an uncharacteristically gloomy entry today. Perhaps it is getting to me after all. I should point out then, for balance, that Gilbert goes on to note that we are also very good at synthesizing happiness. For example, he quotes a man who emerged from jail after 35 years of wrongful imprisonment saying ‘I don’t have a moment’s regret. It was a glorious experience.’ A glorious experience, no less. Perhaps there is hope, then, that this Monday of Mondays can be, if not glorious, then at least bearable, or even moderately agreeable.

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