The Key to Happiness

The Key to Happiness

The key to happiness

By Alan Ferguson

The Province

The next time your boss calls you into the office to tell you you”re getting a big, fat pay raise, just say you”re not interested – but you would like her to join you in a rousing chorus of Don”t Worry, Be Happy.

Both of you will immediately feel much better, morale will be dramatically improved and productivity will soar.

Don”t take my word for it. That’s what the latest scientific research suggests, according to John Helliwell, professor emeritus of economics at UBC.

According to the prof, what’s in your paycheque is only half the story when it comes to measuring happiness on the job.

Just as important, for example, is how far you think you can trust your boss.

If, on a scale of one to 10, you can give your employer a one-point rise in rank on trust issues, the flood of wellbeing you”ll experience will be equivalent to a one-third increase in income, researchers found.

What researchers, you may be asking, somewhat skeptically? Well, they”re working with Helliwell on a project funded by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR).

No, I hadn”t heard of it, either, even though it’s celebrating its 25th anniversary with a cross-country tour featuring some of the nation’s top brains tasked with answering The Next Big Question.

For some of us, The Next Big Question may be how the heck we”re going to survive until next pay day.

But the three brains on the Vancouver leg of the tour have weightier matters on their minds.

As well as Helliwell the happiness guy, there is microbe guy Curtis Suttle, a biology prof at UBC, and Bryan Kolb, a psychology prof at Lethbridge University who studies the link between nature (what’s in people’s genes) and nurture (how they”re brought up).

The three of them will try to outdo one other in making a case for their work at a public forum today in Vancouver . . . all in good fun, of course.

At a much smaller gathering on Tuesday, Prof. Kolb won hands down.

I guess it’s because most of us would like to believe that we”re not just “born that way” – doomed to a life dictated by the genes with which we came in to the world – but that, with a caring, loving upbringing, we can all reach for the stars.

Kolb’s tested thesis is that even the simplest act, like singing a song to your child at night, can change his or her life for the better. I think my grandmother could have told Kolb that half-a-century ago, but who am I to quibble?

Personally, I liked the happiness guy best. It’s comforting to learn that, despite their multimillion-dollar annual bonuses, all those Wall Street financiers still haven”t found the key to contentment.

I”m not so sure about microbes, of which there are apparently several million coursing through my body as I write, some with pathological intent.

No doubt there’s great subtlety to Suttle’s work – but the less I know about these little critters, the happier I will be, pay raise or not.