Gordon Mercer and Marcia Mercer Global Digital Post

The Global Digital Post: Catching Happiness

Gordon Mercer and Marcia Mercer Global Digital Post: “The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.” Ben Franklin


Franklin, NC -- (ReleaseWire) -- 12/14/2010 -- When over thirty five digital news networks covered our last column on “Franklin, North Carolina-A Touch of Global,” we realized that global connectivity in small towns is an interesting topic. Silobreaker News in London and Stockholm featured our column and their global technology included a pictorial network of Franklin, North Carolina. Silobreaker’s network of Franklin, North Carolina included Caterpillar, global and wholesale distribution networks, New York City, mining networks, Western Carolina University, Drake Enterprises, broadband, groundwater and watershed research, and Paris, France. Silobreaker also considered our "Global Digital Post" as a global factor in Franklin, since we have readers from over 35 counties. As we will explore in this column, connectivity and happiness are related.

We were intrigued when a recent survey by faculty at the London School of Economics ranked Bangladesh as the happiest Country in the world. The same study ranked the British 32nd and the United States 46th. The survey found the people of Bangladesh got more enjoyment out of the little money they had than did people in wealthier countries. The study also cited an “emotional poverty” brought on by “consumerism” in the wealthier countries.

As we approach the holiday season, we reflect on what makes us happy. We remember a Christmas when our children were small and were given some rather large gifts. We don’t remember what the gifts were and they must not have made much of an impression on our children either. Our children along with the rest of the children in the neighborhood spent most of that day playing in a fort they had built with the empty boxes.

This story relates to an earlier column of ours about happiness. British researchers Dimitris Ballas and Danny Dorling found most of our happiness comes from the supportive relationships we have with friends and family. In poorer countries like Bangladesh strong supportive family groups and friends helping friends are the norm. We noticed shrieks of laughter coming from the children as they played in the box fort with all their friends. We often sing when we are happy and Gordon's brother James Mercer once reminded us that people do not sing about their new cars.

Pioneering Psychologist Abraham Maslow found that creativity makes people happier. He was not only speaking of works of art but of creative ways of performing everyday tasks. In our lives, when our budget is tightest we become more creative. While we do not think true suffering is helpful for happiness, a problem solved creatively makes us proud of ourselves. Liking ourselves is important to happiness.

Helping others was also found as important to happiness. People in poorer countries help each other by necessity. There is more of a sense of group responsibility over individual responsibility, being responsible for each other. Giving to others is important to happiness. There are many studies that found helping others activates the ‘good mood’ center in the brain.

This Christmas how can we apply happiness studies to our own lives? Valuing what we already have in terms of family, friends and possessions is important. Creativity, music and adventure can abound at Christmas. We do not have to drive far to go somewhere we have never gone before. Adventure is important to happiness with any leap out of familiar routine defined as adventure. We love the hidden treasures and books found at secondhand stores. These stores usually are charity run so we can feel good about spending our money there.
During this holiday season we hope, as Ben Franklin said, you catch happiness. And, we wish you a merry and happy holiday.

Gordon Mercer is international president of Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society and a professor at Western Carolina University. Marcia Mercer is a writer and columnist. Her new children’s book, “When I Woke up the World Was Yellow” will be out in 2011. Go to http://9955.hostednr.com to get to our Global Digital Post Press Room.