As the warm air flowed into the car through the heating vents, I felt the muscles of my arms and legs slowly release their death grip on my bones. I began to settle comfortably into the soft seat, a flannel blanket wrapped around my legs, still a necessity despite the heat in the car and the layers of thermals separating my body from the frigid, early morning cold.
Monkeys scampering in the woods dashed along the sides of the roads, in and out of the street, seemingly unaware of the danger the SUV could wreak upon their small bodies. Peacocks – much more aware of the danger or perhaps inherently more skitterish than the monkeys – immediately flew to safety, gracing us with views of their magnificent tails as the car rounded each bend.
I wiped the condensation from my window only to behold a scene that appeared to be out of some Disney fairy tale, a scene that could have been accompanied by the Mary Poppins soundtrack. A young girl, perhaps six or seven, clothed merely in a cotton frock with a thin cardigan sweater was skipping, prancing, dancing up and down the side of the road as though it were a beautiful summer afternoon rather than an icy winter dawn. She wore pink ankle socks which caused her feet to continuously slip out of her plastic sandals as she whirled and twirled, hopped and skipped, along the edge of the road. Her skeletal legs stuck out bare under her dress, but I knew instinctively they were not covered in goosebumps as mine were, despite my thermal underwear, thick blanket and artificial heat being pumped through the car vents.
Her father walked behind her, the weight of their belongings, as well as, it seemed, of the entire world, slung in a sack upon his shoulder. His feet were bare in his plastic sandals and he was wrapped in a woolen shawl from head to knee, his bare knobby knees visible beneath his thin cotton dhoti.
The young girl danced up and down, back and forth, skipping ahead of her father by about 20 or 30 feet, then dancing back in his direction, then away again, then back toward him, up and down the windy mountainous road, angelic serenity painted upon her face. As she approached her father a wide smile would push its way out through her lips and her eyes would twinkle so visibly that I could see it even through the car window.
Where they were going, when they’d arrive, the numerous kilometers of jungle road which separated them from the nearest shelter, the emptiness of her belly, the frigidity of the morning, the ambiguity of what the future might hold – none of this held any relevance for my dancing jungle nymph. She was, undeniably, in ecstasy.
* * * * * *
Happiness. Contentment. Satisfaction. Joy. Longing. Envy. Bitterness. What creates these emotions within us? How is it that, in a situation so undeniably bleak, one could be filled with such undeniable joy? While on the faces of most homeless people in the West is etched painful awareness of their difficult situation, the young Indian girl’s face bore witness to nothing other than a life of abundance. What is it that has created the difference? These thoughts filled my mind during the next five hour drive to Delhi and in the months which have followed.
* * * * * *
A Life of Abundance in the Midst of Indigence
When I first moved to India one of the things which struck me immediately and poignantly was the light which shone in the eyes of the children, the rich and the poor, the privileged and underprivileged, the educated and illiterate, the haves and have-nots. Compared to the anger and bitterness which I had become accustomed to seeing in the eyes of poor children in California and South America, it was an amazing, unmistakable and awe-inspiring difference.
And these were not infants, oblivious to their squalid surroundings, but rather school aged children and older, ranging from five or six up through their teens. “What would you like from America?” I’d ask prior to any of my bi-annual trips. “Oh, nothing” they’d giggle. If they ever did think of something to ask for it was simple and small like balloons. Once someone had brought American balloons which expanded much wider and fuller than the ones manufactured in India. Since then, balloons from “Amreeka” have been a hot commodity. However, despite the poverty in which they live, despite the lack of possessions, comfort or convenience, they are truly and deeply happy, yearning for nothing, craving nothing, filled predominantly with a sense of what they DO have rather than a sense of what they don’t have.
On my first trip back to my parents’ home in Los Angeles after moving to India, I rummaged casually through my closets, closets filled with items that seemed to belong to another being in another lifetime, a being whom I had encountered deeply and meaningfully perhaps in a dream, perhaps in a movie, a being I understood, loved and even pitied, but certainly not a being who WAS me. On one of those rummagings I happened upon photo albums of myself and some friends of mine when we were young, eight or nine years old, standing around a swimming pool at what must have been a birthday party or some other festive gathering. We had ice cream cones in our hands and the smoke from a bar-b-que in the distance filled the blue sky over our heads. We smiled and our smiles showed white teeth, many already with braces, and soft, pink lips. Our cheeks were rosy and full. But in not one eye was there the glimmer, the light, the evanescence which shone in the eyes of every child I had met in India. It is a light that makes you laugh through your tears of helplessness, a light that makes you forget you are looking at someone who could be Feed the Children’s poster child, a light that belies the undeniable desperateness of their situation, a light that points the way to something unmistakably higher, bigger and more important than financial prosperity and external comfort in determining happiness.
From Whence Does our Happiness Come?
I have pondered quite a bit since coming to India and even more so since my encounter with the young girl on the jungle road a few months ago, about the nature of human happiness. What is it that brings us happiness? What is the key? The myth that prosperity breeds joy has been proved to be just that, a myth. Literature by Martin Seligman, Ph.D, Tal Ben-Shahra, Ph.D. and numerous others have shown repeatedly that even significant increases in salary or financial status (including winning the lottery) are not reliable determinants of increases in satisfaction, happiness or contentment. Nor, in converse, is being struck with a debilitating handicap a sure sign of lasting despair and misery. An unbelievable 84% of people with quadriplegia (paralysis of all four limbs) consider their lives to be at least average or above average! Given that, mathematically, only 50% of people can possibly have lives that are “above average”, one can infer that even these people who have been struck with permanent physical tragedy, still err significantly in favor of a positive view of their own circumstances.
What are the determinants of happiness then? Clearly eating nice food, enjoying a sunset, and sitting in a hot bath are pleasurable in the moment and cause a temporary but quite remarkable increase in the amount of “pleasure” hormones and neurotransmitters flowing through our brains and bloodstreams. However, within moments of ending the meal, the onset of dark and stepping out of the tub we are back to our baseline level. What is it, then, that determines our “base” level of joy in life?
The Genetic Component – Nature versus Nurture
According to research by Martin Seligman and others, happiness is both genetic and teachable. Numerous studies of identical twins raised apart and other adoption studies have shown that happiness, contentment, joy and optimism all have a huge genetic component. Identical twins, put up for adoption and raised separately, are significantly more likely to exhibit similar traits of depression, optimism and overall happiness than non-genetic adopted siblings living in the same house. Seligman is ardent in his debunking of the “faulty parents” myth. It is not, he emphasizes, the early home environment which plays such a crucial role in our lifelong levels of happiness, optimism and satisfaction. “It has turned out to be difficult to find even small effects of childhood events on adult personality and there is no evidence at all of large – to say nothing of determining – effects.” Short of severe childhood trauma, the events of our day to day life as children and the particular idiosyncrasies of the home environment in which we are raised do not seem to be major determinants of our enduring state of happiness.
Although Freud’s compelling theories of personality formation due to early childhood fixations and neuroses gripped most of Western psychological thinking, research and practice in the twentieth century, hard science of the twenty-first has been unable to validate these claims. Rather, the science seems to be showing that our thought patterns, styles and habits coupled with a genetically influenced “base” level of happiness are stronger determinants of our lifelong levels of joy, contentment and satisfaction than specific events of our childhood (short of very unusual, severe trauma).
Further, current research has shown that both positive and negative spikes in our happiness levels (for example: winning the lottery, getting a promotion, getting fired, getting divorced) are mostly only temporary, and that after a relatively short period of time we are back to our “base” level. This research runs contrary to much of Western indoctrination which tells us – explicitly as well as insidiously subtly – that in order to be happy we should work harder and harder to earn more and more money so we can purchase more and more, better and better possessions. Numerous researchers found that the effects on base happiness levels of purchases, inheritances, financial set-backs, childbirth, endings of relationships, promotions, etc. are fleeting. Within a matter of days, weeks or months, we are just as happy, satisfied and optimistic (or unhappy, dissatisfied and pessimistic) as we were previously.
This research led to the development of the Hedonic Treadmill theory by Michael Eysenck, which posits that we develop “tolerance” to emotions just as to any addictive substance. One glass of wine may be enough to make us gleefully intoxicated the first time we drink, yet slowly – with repeated evenings spent drinking wine – we will need three or four (or even more) glasses to obtain the same giddy effect. Similarly, Eysenck claims, having extra disposable income, buying a brand new car, moving to a new house, or taking a nice holiday may create ephemeral yet significantly positive spikes in our emotional level; however, over time the effect wears off, and we will need more income, a newer car and a nicer house to achieve the same level of contentment.
Connection Between Happiness and Health
Martin Seligman notes several longitudinal studies which show that happiness exhibited in early and mid-twenties is indicative and even predictive of health, strength and happiness into one’s eighties and nineties and is even predictive of life expectancy. Those with bigger, more honest smiles or those who expressed more gratitude and joy in their twenties were significantly more likely to be alive, healthy and happy well into their nineties. The numbers are profound. One study, which assessed nuns entering a convent in their twenties found that 90% of those who were judged, based on their entry essays, to have the most cheerful disposition were still alive at eighty-five compared to only 34% percent of those judged to be the least cheerful. Additionally, 54% of the most cheerful group were still alive at age ninety-four, compared to 11% of the least cheerful.
The Mayo Clinic in Minneapolis ran a similar study and found that, out of 839 patients, those who were optimists had a 19% greater longevity over the forty years of the study.
Another large study was conducted of subjects aged 65 or older. The subjects were assessed for happiness levels as well as a variety of other variables. Holding everything – including income and health constant – it was found that those who were “happy” at the time of the study were only half as likely to die or to become disabled during a two year time period as those who scored lower on the happiness scale!! It means those whose happiness scores were low were twice as likely to die or become disabled during the two year duration of the study.
I read several books and journal articles on the study of happiness and yet I did not feel significantly closer to the answer of my initial question – what is it that enabled that young, impoverished girl to dance so gleefully and joyfully on that frigid morning? The research showed me what most likely did NOT cause it, but short of simply saying “it’s her nature” I was not any closer to knowing what DID cause it. There is a form of Hindu meditation called Neti Neti. The technique aims to give seekers a true experience and awareness of being one with the Divine, of having no separate, limited, finite existence, but rather through discarding layer after layer of what is NOT me, I come to the realization that I am Divine. The technique is to begin on the outermost level and say something like, “I am not the clothes I am wearing.” This is obvious to and understandable by even the densest spiritual aspirant. Then, one goes a step deeper. “I am not the skin that covers my bones.” And further, “I am not the mind which is aware of the fact that skin is covering my bones.” And on and on until there is nothing left with which one can identify as I. The negations vary from person to person, but the end result is the experience of the great Void. I clearly exist for I have the irrefutable experience of existing, and yet I am none of the things with which I have always identified. In that realization of what I am NOT comes the realization of what I AM.
My search for the root of the dancing jungle nymph’s happiness felt much to me like the practice of neti neti. She’s not happy because of this. She’s not happy because of that. I assumed, due to my own witnessing of her palpable ecstasy and also for the sake of argument, that her happiness was not due to a hot donut some passerby had given her an hour before, but rather was her permanent and pervasive state of being. But what allowed for such joy in the face of such hardship? Why was it that scores of children growing up in privileged societies, children whose rooms overflowed with toys, games and books, children whose cheeks were round and rosy, children who had all that Western society says we need to be happy still were not? Not that they are miserable, by any means. Complacent, yes. Content, yes. Laughing and smiling, yes. But able to maintain that contentment, laughter and smile when their desires are unfulfilled, when a friend or sibling takes their toy, when their soccer team loses a match? Usually not.
There are, of course, exceptions to every rule, but it was the general trend in which I was fascinated, sparked first by the beaming faces of the poor children on the ashram and then reignited by the unmistakable bliss of the dancing girl. In general, the Indian children I met, even those who lived substantially below the Western standards of poverty were happy. Not temporarily content in front of a Game-Boy but deeply and constitutionally filled with joie-de-vivre. Comparatively, the people I knew growing up –privileged in every conceivable way – lacked that pervasive, non-situation-dependent joy. Further it has been shown that approximately one-third of American teenagers are clinically depressed, despite living in the “land of plenty” and the “land of opportunity.” Why?
Calcutta Slum Dwellers
I began to get somewhat closer to my answer when I read the study conducted by Robert Biswas-Diener and Ed Diener in which they assessed the level of overall happiness and contentment of homeless people in Calcutta, India compared to Fresno, California and a housing society in Portland, Oregon. Their premise was to investigate the relevance of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs — which states that until and unless man’s basic needs are met, he can neither attain happiness nor aspire to greater states of spiritual awareness and awakening — to the most impoverished. They were also interested in the cross cultural aspects of homelessness.
The subjects from Fresno, while they possessed only a few clothes, a jacket, a bed roll and blankets, generally had good access to numerous services including food, medical care and dental care. The subjects living in “Dignity Village” a housing complex for homeless people in Portland had numerous possessions and facilities including their own bedding, cooking supplies, musical instruments and bicycles. Further, the community provides residents with access to an organic garden, basketball, bathing facilities as well as internet facilities. Those on the streets of Calcutta had, by far, the fewest personal possessions as well as the fewest facilities. Further, the average monthly income of the homeless in Calcutta was $24 per month, for those in Dignity Village it was $270, and for those in Fresno it was $358.
The subjects in all three conditions were given a variety of scales to measure their personal, overall happiness and contentment as well as their satisfaction with various aspects of their lives (income, food, facilities, relationships, etc.). Amazingly, the subjects from Calcutta scored significantly higher both on general, overall happiness as well as on satisfaction in individual areas than either those living on the streets of Fresno or in Dignity Village. The table on the next page shows the scores. A score of 20 is neutral – neither overly satisfied and happy nor overly dissatisfied and unhappy. Those in Calcutta scored an average of 22, compared to 17.27 of those in Dignity Village and 14.12 in Fresno.
Consistent with common sense which says that those living on the street have lives that fall on the negative side of neutral, the subjects both in Fresno and in Portland scored significantly below neutral on the overall happiness scale. However, those in Calcutta scored significantly above neutral! Even living on the streets, with nothing and no possibilities, they judged their lives as not only not negative but as actively positive. Further, although their income was by far the lowest (both in actual amount as well as amount scaled to local cost of living) the homeless of Calcutta were far more satisfied with their income than those living in Fresno and Portland.
The researchers remarked: “Perhaps the most counter-intuitive finding is the relatively high subjective well-being of our sample in India. Despite poorer access to food, clean water, medical care, opportunities for employment, and adequate shelter than their counterparts in the United States, the pavement dwellers in Calcutta reported higher levels of life satisfaction. Not only was the general life satisfaction among the Calcutta sample higher than that of the two American samples, but it was in the positive range! This is consistent with our past research, in which impoverished groups in Calcutta reported surprisingly high life satisfaction, given their environmental conditions (Biswas-Diener and Diener, 2001).”
Possible Explanations for Happiness in Calcutta Street People Compared with Those in Ameria
Biswas-Diener and Diener offer two hypothetical explanations for the seemingly counter-intuitive findings: first the communist leanings of West Bengal (the state of which Calcutta is the capital) and second, the widespread prevalence of poverty in India which is indicative of a macro-socio-economic problem rather than individual pathology or dire circumstances. However, these are both simply musings on the part of the researchers, and I would like to offer both a reply and an alternative hypothesis.
First of all, communism in the former Soviet Union was certainly no indicator of increased happiness in the citizens nor is Communism in China an indicator of increased happiness. On the recent cross-cultural, international study of life satisfaction, despite China’s burgeoning economy and emergence as a world leader, its citizens are significantly less happy than those in many countries of Europe, South America and also USA.
Neither do I believe that widespread poverty leads to an increase in happiness amongst the poor. I do not believe similar results would be found of the poor living on the streets of Johannesburg. It is only my hypothesis, but having spent time in Africa as well as India, I have enough of a base to state the hypothesis with a small degree of confidence.
My Personal Theory
My theory is completely different and falls well out of the realm of mainstream science or psychology. I believe that there is something about the inherent, innate and pervasive spirituality in India that leads its citizens – even those living on the street – to be happier than their counterparts in other countries. In fact, from what I have seen, it is the Indians living in the main metropolitan hubs where they are bombarded daily with western television, western movies, western magazines, western culture and values, who are the least happy. These “modern” and “well educated” Indians have, in large numbers, tragically taken it to heart that everything white and foreign is better than everything dark and Indian. This is perhaps due to the truly brilliant and devastatingly insidious methods of the British of infiltrating the education system, changing the text books and distorting the very history of India’s own country. Thus, those with the convent education, perfect English and familiarity with all Western movies, serials and stars, are the ones most likely to feel less than satisfied with their lives, no doubt due to the constant barrage of propaganda feeding them the same feelings of inferiority and dissatisfaction that so many Westerners have. Conversely, traditional Indians, living the traditional Indian life – whether wealthy, middle classed or impoverished – have a serenity, a joy and depth of acceptance that far surpasses anything I’ve ever encountered abroad.
Ask a young woman carrying pounds of forest wood on her head back to her village, in order to cook the evening meal, “How are you?” She will reply, “It’s all God’s blessings.” Ask the sweeper in the street of Rishikesh how he is and he will reply, “It’s all the grace of Mother Ganga [the Ganges river which is worshipped as the Mother Goddess].” These are not trite sayings that fall, habitually, out of people’s mouths devoid of meaning. Rather, these statements are accompanied by a shine in the eyes and a smile which is not merely of the lips and teeth but rather a smile in which it seems their entire being is smiling.
Generosity of Hand and of Spirit
I cannot tell you the number of times people who barely have enough money to put rice and lentils on the table at night have begged me to come home for a meal. They don’t even have enough to feed their families and yet they want nothing more than to feed others. “At least come for a cup of tea or a cold drink,” they urge insistently. A bottle of coke costs 10 rupees which is more than she spends on the daily quota of vegetables for the family of five. Yet, even in spite of my adamant refusals that I don’t drink coke, she will send the eldest child out to fetch a bottle from the market, convinced that there cannot be any foreigner who doesn’t drink coke and that my refusals must simply be good manners. Fresh cow’s milk is a luxury, affordable by a very few yet seen as the quintessential nectar of the gods. Should one succumb to the demands to come over for a cup of tea, half of the day’s wages will immediately and joyfully be sent out to the market to buy “pure cow’s milk” for the tea.
There is no sense of martyrdom or manipulation in India. I have, in ten years, never once seen or heard someone implicitly or explicitly insinuate that he/she was being generous only due societal norms. I have never once seen anyone give anything – from a cup of tea to the shawl off their back to their own bed — grudgingly or disdainfully. Rather, it is from giving and serving that their joy comes. When a mother bakes a batch of sweets, the broken, misshaped ones will be eaten by the family and the nice ones saved in case any guest should suddenly come to visit. Even if no guests are expected, the possibility that one might come is enough to warrant saving all of the best pieces of sweet. “Don’t eat those ones,” mothers teach their children from infancy. “Those could be given to someone else. Eat these broken ones instead. They taste just as good.”
Seligman conducted a study with his class students in which they had to perform two types of activities on two different days and then record their feelings on a variety of happiness scales. One activity was something that the student viewed as “fun.” This could include everything ranging from going to the movies with friends, going to a party, going shopping, watching a favorite TV serial, etc. The second activity was something altruistic. They had to go out and do something nice for someone else. The students all recorded significantly more and deeper positive feelings after performing the altruistic act than after engaging in the “fun” act.
Further, it has been shown in numerous studies that people who are religious are also generally happier and also healthier than people who are not. Seligman explains: “Religions instill hope for the future and create meaning in life.”
An Attitude of Gratitude
The third aspect worth addressing is gratitude. Seligman lists a variety of things one can do to increase one’s enduring (compared to temporary) level of deep happiness. One of these is to practice gratitude. He suggests keeping a gratitude diary and writing down all of the things for which one is grateful, every evening before sleep. Indians, by nature and by nurture, are filled with gratitude. As I mentioned earlier, the typical answer to “How are you?” is some variation of “It’s all due to God’s grace and blessings.” Whatever they have – whether it’s minimal or abundant – is due to God’s generosity. I have never seen people bitter or disgruntled, regardless of the hardship that has befallen them. Sad, yes. Pained, yes. Of course. But, sad and pained with an awareness that ultimately it is all for the best and all part of God’s Divine Plan.
We were on a high altitude spiritual pilgrimage several years ago when one of the travelers (a heart patient who had not disclosed his illness due to fear of being prohibited from joining the trip) had a heart attack and passed away. His wife was, of course, sad at the loss of her life-long love. Yet, her tears of sadness flowed together with tears of joy and gratitude. Over and over again she thanked Swamiji for bringing her husband to such a holy and sacred place in order to leave his body. “Without you, he never would have had this divine opportunity,” she kept saying, despite the fact that this “divine opportunity” had brought about his death. She was not, for even a moment, debilitated by her grief. There was no tantrum, no screaming, no loss of control that one has become accustomed to seeing by the loved ones of a recently deceased in the West. Tears silently streamed from her eyes as she phoned the children to inform them that “Father has gone home to God and he was so lucky and blessed because he left his body in this holy place.”
Gratitude is part and parcel of traditional Indian culture and I believe that it plays a huge role in Indians’ ability to withstand even the severest hardships. I have marveled frequently at people who are so poor that they would fall into the bottom percentile of welfare recipients yet who adamantly deny they are poor. “We are not poor at all. Those people over there, perhaps they are poor. But we are not poor.” At the beginning I interpreted this as a half-hearted effort at maintaining their dignity. Yet, I quickly realized that the intentions and words were much purer. These people honestly do not believe themselves to be poor. Yes, they have less than others, but they also have more than others. This is taken as an unchangeable aspect of life and not one which gets much regard.
These three aspects – a deep sense of spirituality and religion, gratitude and a culture which focuses on giving rather than receiving – are, in my theory, what leads those living on the streets of Calcutta to be so substantially happier than those on the streets of America.
It’s in the Air
And what about my dancing jungle nymph? Probably she does not practice conscious gratitude. Probably she doesn’t have much she’s been able to give to anyone else. Probably she wouldn’t even tell you she is religious. She is far too young for any of these. Yet, these aspects are not individual in India. They are not limited to certain people who engage in certain practices and subscribe to certain philosophies. Rather, they are truly in the air. One breathes them whether one is conscious of it or not. One becomes, simply by living in this land, grateful, spiritual and generous of spirit.
My jungle nymph is probably no different than millions of other children, living in other villages across the country, eating white rice cooked on a gasoline stove, bathing from a rusty hand pump, sleeping on a straw mat on the cold ground, together with all members of the family and perhaps a goat or two.
In the early days of my time in India I visited a school we were going to sponsor. I wrote the following in my journal when we returned in the evening, through my steady stream of tears……
The laundry lines are low, and clothes hang down to a few feet above the dirt. Goats, mangy and not much more than skin and bones, sleep piled on top of one another. A dog barks in the background, although the cry sounds more like that of a child. Occasionally, a cow will lazily wander over to the laundry lines and attempt to make lunch out of the drying clothes. Children run and chase each other, just like children around the world. However, these children are half naked although it is December, infections cover their bodies, and they are hungry.
Here, in this midst, a room has been built out of scraps of wood, sheets of metal, and clothes that have finally been discarded. The room has no light, other than the rays of sun which trickle in from the narrow doorway or from the holes in the imperfect walls. The floor is damp, for it has recently rained, but none of the children seems to mind, even though many are without pants.
Outside the doorway of this ramshackle room, the shoes of all those fortunate enough to own some lay neatly in rows. In India, one always removes one’s shoes before entering a holy place, and to these children, this shack that serves as a school is a temple.
At the front of this room — a maximum of 10 feet X 10 feet, stands a young girl, perhaps six years old. Her eyes are closed, her hands are in prayer. She says a verse and the rows of children at her feet repeat back to her. Those on the floor sit in three rows, nine or ten children per row. All are crossed legged, arms stretched out on their knees, thumbs touching the first two fingers — the classic meditation posture.
As the morning prayer ends, the young girl’s voice breaks into an exhilarated cry, “Bharat Mata Ki![Mother India!]” The children shout, “Jai! [Glory to Her!]” eyes opening and filling the room with their innocent sweetness.
Then, she calls, “Daish ki seva, quon karega? [who will selflessly serve the people?]“ “Hum karengay! Hum karengay![we will! we will!]” comes the exuberant response from the children, each filled with angelic optimism and faith. “Hum karengay!” Here are children with nothing, vowing to give to others, children the world has forgotten pledging to serve that very world.
I believe it is this – this spirit – which blows through the country in the wind, which flows through the people in their blood, which can – I hope – be given and taught to others, so that we all may learn to dance and skip and prance and frolic along on the path of life, no matter how cold the morning or how far our destination.
- Ben-Shahar, Tal, Ph.D; The Question of Happiness; Writers Club Press – 2002
- Biswas-Diener, Robert & Diener, Ed; The Subjective Well-Being of the Homeless and Lessons for Happiness; Social Indicators Research (2006) 76: 185-205
- Seligman, Martin E.P., Authentic Happiness, Free Press, New York, 2002;
 Seligman, Martin E.P., Authentic Happiness, Free Press, New York, 2002; page 67
 Ben-Shahar, Tal, Ph.D; The Question of Happiness; Writers Club Press – 2002
 Biswas-Diener, Robert & Diener, Ed; The Subjective Well-Being of the Homeless and Lessons for Happiness; Social Indicators Research (2006) 76: 185-205