Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Nostalgia – not what is used to be!

From Wikiprogress Correspondent Wellbeing Wales Network - Dafydd Thomas

The Guardian ran an online thread asking if nostalgia could help make its readers happy? The premise for the article was a new report from San Francisco State University where they had examined the personality traits of 750 volunteers to see if those who viewed the past in a positive light had higher overall life satisfaction.

According to the article, in one corner there are the high energy extrovert types with lots of social connections and happier memories as a result.  In the other, stand those “high on the neurotic scale,” with a personality trait “marked by anxiety and irritability.”

It would seem to me that there are whole bunch of issues wrapped up in this study, which haven’t been made any clearer in its conclusion.  Is it just me, but surely a lonely person, with an “irritable and high anxiety personality trait” isn’t happy to begin with.  It’s no surprise surely that their past is bereft of happy thoughts and stimulating company. 

The report concluded that some people are “happier with their lives because they tend to hold a positive, nostalgic view of the past and are less likely to have negative thoughts and regrets.”  There’s hope for the negative amongst us in that “personality can't explain 100 percent of our happiness.” The irritable should savor happy memories, or even “recasting sad ones in an optimistic light” which should make you feel happier!

Steve Richard in the Independent asks whether Cameron’s idea of happiness can last.  His article covers what some commentators wearily titled the fourth re-launch of the Big Society, but it appears as though the Prime Minister is persisting in his interest in wellbeing, its measurement and use as a determinant of policy.

Although the article uses the concepts of happiness and wellbeing interchangeably, what is clear is Cameron’s desire to use measures other than GDP when informing and deciding policy.  If that is the case, Richard questions whether libraries and local post offices should not be subject to austerity cuts because of their value as “local binding agencies” and “valued institutions?” Whether that happens on the ground is a different issue and a real test for the current UK Government.  Downing Street insiders are quoted hoping that “wellbeing becomes as important a factor in determining policy as more orthodox economic measures.” This is certainly something that members of the Wellbeing Wales Network would welcome.

The “and finally” bit of this month’s Editor’s Choice goes to New Zealand Top News Network’s article on Rabbit Awareness Week.  Launched in May and part of an annual campaign, Rabbit Awareness Week tries to increase the general public’s “awareness of the emotional welfare needs of rabbits by encouraging owners to mull over the mental and emotional health of their pets.” 

Well, my awareness of “unhappy rabbits” developing “behavioral problems” that include purposeless activities” has risen beyond all recognition.  As a youngster, I always thought my pet rabbit was content, just bouncing around the garden. I assumed at the time, that I had a happy rabbit with a “high energy extrovert type” personality.  Even better, Flossy had “lots of social connections” which were mostly cats granted, but it all seemed so much easier and more innocent back then ...

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