Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Happiest College Students

The first reference question of the day was, "is there a list of the colleges with the happiest students?" This led us to the Princeton Review's list of "Top 10 Schools With the Happiest Students." If you click on the link, you will see that Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington has the happiest students. Just a guess here about the reason for their happiness, but just saying "Whitman in Walla Walla, Washington" five times rapidly kind of makes me giggle. But seriously, the study of happiness is big business these days. By now, many people have heard about the survey of countries which found that Denmark is the happiest nation. Sixty Minutes interviewed a bunch of Danish experts about that and the consensus seemed to be that Danes don't expect much of life, hence they aren't too disappointed by it. Hmm, that sounds kinda gloomy, doesn't it? So just how scientific can these happiness studies be? Searching the BHPL catalog for the subject term "happiness" produces 44 titles. The newest is The How of Happiness: a scientific approach to getting the life you want, by Sonja Lyubomirsky, who claims that people can change 40% of their happiness by doing various things she describes in the book. The remaining 60% of happiness is kind of pre-determined or beyond one's control, is the gist of the theory, I think. The book is pretty serious looking and I'm happy I don't have to read it word for word, but please check it out yourselves. The call number is New Non-Fiction 158 LYU. 158 must be the Dewey Decimal number for happiness if you want to browse for more on the topic. Remember the Charles Schultz book, Happiness is a Warm Puppy? It's only 72 pages and it will probably make you smile even more than saying "Walla Walla Washington" five times rapidly.


Anonymous said...

I would love to see more posts about the reference questions you get asked!

Re: Happiness, I really enjoyed Daniel Gilbert's Stumbling on Happiness (review here: http://www.loudlatinlaughing.com/books/lz/GilbertDaniel/StumblingOnHappiness/ )

Anne said...

Thanks, Iz. Your review of Stumbling on Happiness is great, the other BHPL blogger, Ellen, also recommends Gilbert's book. BHPL blog readers, take a look at Iz' book blog www.loudlatinlaughing.com
As for reference questions, we post about them from time to time; you never know what someone walking up to the Reference Desk will ask. Keeps us on our toes.

Anonymous said...

I have read many books on happiness, and I feel that Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky's The How of Happiness is an outstanding book, written by one of the leading researchers in the study of human happiness, a world-renowned expert in the field. In reviewing all of the books on the subject of happiness over the past decade, however, there is one book that stands out as the forerunner of all these popular books on human happiness -- In speaking of this book, Dr, Lyubomirsky has said, "If you go to the bookstore, you will find many, many books on happiness. And I'm often asked what is the best book about happiness out there. I truthfully always say it is The Art of Happiness. I believe that."

For those who may be unfamiliar with the book, The Art of Happiness: A Handbook of Living, is a collaboration between H.H. the Dalai Lama, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and Howard C. Cutler, M.D., an American psychiatrist. Dr. Cutler is an expert on human happiness, one of the pioneers in the field of Positive Psychology, who helps individuals achieve greater happiness using a unique program based on The Art of Happiness, supplemented with the latest cutting-edge scientific research on the subject. While sometimes overlooked in many blogs and media discussions about happiness,, as a result of the glut of newer books on the subject, this groundbreaking work was published in 1998, just prior to the explosion of interest in happiness among both the scientific community and the general public, but one could argue that it is still the "gold standard" of books on happiness--as even today, after all of the more recent bestsellers, it is still undoubtedly the most successful book on the subject, with two years on The New York Times bestseller list, and worldwide acclaim--and I feel rightfully so.

The Art of Happiness is quite an amazing book--offering the very best of East and West, blending the Dalai Lama's profound wisdom and insight about how to achieve greater happiness with Dr. Cutler's outstanding commentary and very skillful way of making it accessible to Western audiences. While the Dalai Lama's views are of course rooted in Buddhist thought, this book is written for a secular audience, for individuals from any tradition or background, whether Christian, Jewish, Buddhist or any other religion, as well as those who adhere to no religion at all. Dr. Cutler did a remarkably effective job in framing the Dalai Lama's ideas within a contemporary Western context, finding supporting scientific evidence corroborating the Dalai Lama's suggestions and advice about achieving greater happiness, as well as providing compelling stories and illustrations of how we might go about applying the Dalai Lama's ideas in everyday life. While the book did not have the benefit of some of the newer scientific studies on happiness, the remarkable thing is that in the intervening years since the book was first published, the newer scientific studies have seemed to invariably confirm and support the Dalai Lama's views--which are based on the 2500 year old Buddhist tradition.

Anonymous said...

Whitman College really is the happiest place on earth.

Anne said...

I'm glad to hear that Whitman College really is a happy place. I went to a university where the weather was gloomy, the location isolated, the students competetive to the point of cheating or throwing themselves into the gorges. I bet some of you can guess what that university was.
The happiness post has gotten the most comments of any post so far, which is an interesting commentary in itself. Linda, thank you for your thoughtful comments on the wider trends of happiness studies and books and the reminder that the Dalai Lama's book may have started it all and is definitely worth a look. For me, just seeing his calm, smiling face makes me feel better about the human condition.