Why Happiness Has Such a Profound Effect on Life; Positive Psychology - the Science of What Makes People Happy - Could Help Prime Minister David Cameron Is His Quest to Make Us More Content. Dr Clive Wood Explains More about the Science Behind Happiness and Why He's Running a Course in It

Article excerpt

THE UK Government announced one of its most surprising initiatives in November.

Rather than measuring the country's level of prosperity, as previous administrations have done, the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition has said it will measure the happiness of people each year.

The plan will then be to introduce a series of policies designed to make us all happier.

But the new course I'll be running this month at Cardiff University suggests the coalition might be disappointed with the results.

We'll be looking at the rapidlyexpanding science of positive psychology - the study of what makes people happy and satisfied with their lives.

Instead of concentrating on older, although still important, concerns about mental and physical illness, the new science explores what we find good about our lives and how we might boost our wellbeing.

It also examines the goals in life that we consider to be really important to us.

All this may sound "airy-fairy and impractical" - to quote Prime Minister David Cameron - but this isn't pop psychology or self-help. Positive psychology, although it has only been around for about 10 years, is a real science, which is generating reliable and important results.

Unfortunately, these results suggest that the Government may not get the answers it wants in return for its pounds 2bn investment.

Why? Because we already know the most important sources of happiness for a country like the UK can be summed up in six words - satisfying relationships; fulfilling work; enjoyable leisure.

Perhaps surprisingly this list doesn't include money - above the basic level to live comfortably - or personal possessions. But finding a job you really like doing and leisure time that you enjoy even more is not going to be easy at a time of severe financial cut-backs. …