Pursuing the pleasure principle

By APNZ, APN News & Media

Former Rotorua Boys' High School student Carsten Grimm admits he is no happiness guru.

"Give me another 40 years of research," says the 33-year-old, who grew up in Rotorua and is behind a Canterbury research project about what brings people pleasure, meaning, engagement, and happiness in life.

However, he does rank his own happiness as a 9 out of 10.

The postgraduate psychology researcher found in his research that having sex and partying were two of life's most enjoyable activities but spending time on Facebook and texting were much less fulfilling.

But Mr Grimm's findings come with a warning.

"We need to become more sophisticated when talking about happiness. It's not just about parties and having sex. It's a far more complicated story than that ... The things that tend to influence life satisfaction are not necessarily the things that influence daily well-being."

Mr Grimm said other research had found that income tended to have a "pretty stable but small" relationship with life satisfaction but a better indicator for determining daily well-being was whether someone had their social and psychological needs met.

Mr Grimm used mobile phone text-messaging to survey what people did during the day and how they felt about it, a technique called "experience sampling".

"I texted people three times a day over a week and the response rate was really high. People are never far from their cellphones these days," Mr Grimm said.

"People replied to on average 97 per cent of all text messages and texts were sent at random times, so there is a really rich sample of everyday life to look at."

Mr Grimm found "sex or making love" ranked first in the four categories measured in the survey. Drinking alcohol or partying ranked second in the pleasure and happiness stakes, but was rated much less meaningful.

Instead, caregiving or volunteering, and meditating and religious practices were seen as more meaningful to respondents.

They also ranked highly in happiness.

At the other end of the scale, washing, dressing and grooming ranked last out of the 30 behaviours surveyed, and being sick and receiving healthcare ranked 30th for happiness.

Facebook was seen as the least meaningful, and also rated poorly in the other three categories. Texting and emailing also rated poorly in the pleasure and happiness categories.

Happiness and well-being were increasingly being used alongside traditional economic indicators such as GDP in policy decision-making, Mr Grimm said. "Treasury is now including well-being measures - life satisfaction - in its higher living standards framework, so governments are into this well-being stuff," he said.

"One of the areas I'm researching - orientations to happiness - looks at whether there are different ways of going about seeking happiness.

"Psychologists have proposed individuals may seek to increase their well-being through three main behavioural orientations: via pleasure, via engagement, and via meaning."

Mr Grimm is to present his research tomorrow as part of the University of Canterbury's showcase lecture series.

"The results have implications for what psychologists have called 'the full life'. Those who tend to be high on all three orientations to happiness not only score high on life satisfaction, they also tend to have higher experiences of pleasure, meaning, engagement and happiness in their daily lives," he said.

Mr Grimm is planning to do a doctorate and also wants to develop an app that will allow for better experience sampling of everyday well-being.

- Bay of Plenty Times

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 22 Jan 2017 15:20:19 Processing Time: 620ms