A 2008 sociology study found that happiness is more difficult for parents :-( me! But our culture thinks that it is taboo to talk about how difficult raising children is. Other sociologists have written about how we as Americans try to consume happiness through our spending power. Sociologist Karen Sternheimer writes
You are no doubt familiar with the cliché that “money can’t buy happiness.” Yet so many of us presume that if we just had a little more money (according to Easterlin’s research, 20% more) we would be happier. Maybe we could buy more, pay off some bills, and feel less stressed about money.
But Easterlin found that this just isn’t the case. In fact, he says many of us buy into the “money illusion”, which guides how we spend our time as we focus on trying to get more money. Of course, this is a very American pursuit: our capitalist economy is based on the constant striving for more.
On the psychology of happiness, Tal Ben-Shahar teaches the most popular class at Harvard, The Psychology of Happiness. His book, Happier, is a psychological understanding of how to live a happier life. He also maintains this website with articles and tips on being happier. You can also see Shahar on John Stewart's Daily Show.
Economists have been discussing happiness at great lengths lately. The most interesting to me so far is Richard Layard who wrote Happiness. Here is an excerpt from Layard's book:
There is a paradox at the heart of our lives. We all want more money, but as societies become richer, they do not become happier. This is not speculation: It's the story told by countless pieces of scientific research. We now have sophisticated ways of measuring how happy people are, and all the evidence shows that on average people have grown no happier in the last fifty years, even as average incomes have more than doubled.
The central question the great economist Richard Layard asks in Happiness is this: If we really wanted to be happier, what would we do differently? First we'd have to see clearly what conditions generate happiness and then bend all our efforts toward producing them. That is what this book is about-the causes of happiness and the means we have to effect it.
Until recently there was too little evidence to give a good answer to this essential question, but, Layard shows us, thanks to the integrated insights of psychology, sociology, applied economics, and other fields, we can now reach some firm conclusions, conclusions that will surprise you. Happiness is an illuminating road map, grounded in hard research, to a better, happier life for us all.