the French Author Who Has Happiness Figured Out

David Marchese in NYMag:

HappyIs American culture too time-consuming for happiness?That's the problem of modern life! I’ve noticed that in New York, people say, “Yes, I'm searching for happiness,” but they don't then do what is absolutely necessary to try to be happier — and the most important thing is to observe yourself, to practice meditation, to be very aware of what you're doing, not thinking of the bad things or the pressures you’re under. I stayed recently for a month in New York, and it was very interesting, because I asked all the people I met, “Are you happy?” And everyone says, “Yes! I’m great!”But if you observe them, it’s clear they’re always under under pressure — to work or succeed or produce in some fashion. Advancement is all they have time for. It doesn’t seem like they’re enjoying life. And I thought maybe they always say “I'm happy” because it feels necessary to say that. If you say “I'm not happy,” people might think you’re a loser. So in America there’s even pressure to be happy, which is not the case in other countries.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being suicidal despair and 10 being full-body bliss, how happy are you? Seven. But when I was a teenager, I was maybe a four.

Most teenagers are probably about a four. Yes, but it gets better with time. I saw a very interesting study that said that most people feel happier between 50 and 70 years old. With time, with the experience of life, we can know ourselves better, and that leads to happiness. There’s a part of the book where I explain that sociologists do experiments where they ask people to rate their happiness, exactly like you just did. And they’ve observed that if people don't work on themselves, if they don't try to change their minds, to practice the meditation, to do something special to improve their happiness, then the rating they give will always be the same. It’s like how lottery winners revert to their old levels of happiness over time — the external, material circumstances don’t affect their happiness in the long-term. It takes mental work. Like scientists say, we as individuals may have fixed natural levels of happiness. But you can change it if you work on it. So in all senses, your happiness depends on you.

More here.