happiness charity well-being australia

Buying Time: The Pursuit of Happiness
philanthropy contentment generosity stranger volunteer selftalk comfort leisure

Australia and New Zealand top World Giving Index

The happier people are, the more likely they are to give time or money to charity. And when people choose time over money, they're happier. But if people knew economic justice, they'd not need to be so charitable or choose between time and money. We trim, blend, and append two 2010 articles from (1) BBC, Sept 8, on giving by Emily Buchanan and (2) Huffington Post,. Sept 10, on buying time by Wray Herbert.

by Emily Buchanan and by Wray Herbert

The happier people are, the more likely they are to give time or money to charity, the largest ever study into global charitable behavior suggests.

The survey -- conducted by the UK's Charities Aid Foundation, which was set up to foster a culture of giving -- suggests that well-being is a more reliable indicator of philanthropy than wealth.

The survey took place in 153 countries, covering 95% of the world's population.

The "World Giving Index" placed Australia and New Zealand joint top, with the US in fifth and the UK eighth.

The index aims to analyze global generosity in giving money, time as a volunteer, or helping a stranger.

Researchers from Gallup found that predictably some of the richer countries with strong histories of philanthropy come out top, such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the Republic of Ireland.

What was more surprising was that near the top too are poorer countries like Sri Lanka, Guyana, and Turkmenistan, but they also registered high levels of contentment.

The people of Turkmenistan are apparently the most generous in the world with their time, while Liberia tops the list for helping a stranger.

Sierra Leone is also high on the overall giving index, but contradicts the trend, with its people registering the lowest well-being score in the world.

The authors of the report acknowledge that there are exceptions which are not always easy to explain.

They are also keen not to offend and make a point of saying all countries give to charity in different ways.

The countries near the bottom of the list include Greece, India, and China.

Richard Harrison, the charity's director of research, says one reason may be to do with the proportion of the population who give.

"An important factor is whether the culture of giving has reached the man in the street, in some fast-developing countries it may be just rich individuals who are the main charitable donors. So they register a low score when a cross-section of the population is surveyed," he says.

The Charitable Aid Foundation argues that the research will help governments around the world do more to encourage all of their population to be more philanthropic -- whether through tax incentives or closer community cohesion.

JJS: Cohesion is fine. Charity is great. But tax breaks? Why should so much charity be needed? Why not instead eradicate poverty? That’s something geonomics could do. And people who give what they have so easily should likewise feel at ease about sharing what belongs to all of us, the worth of Mother Earth, which is the essence of geonomics. Sharing society’s surplus is not a sacrifice; it could even make us all feel happy.

Most Americans are torn about time and money. Work gives us a sense of productivity and self-esteem -- in addition to paying the bills -- but many of us work far more than we really need to in order to get these rewards. And these long workdays inevitably take time away from relationships with friends, family and romantic partners -- the very connections that make us happy.

Cassie Mogilner, professor of marketing at Penn's Wharton School, figured we could choose to think about time over money -- to live more connected, happier lives.

She gave volunteers a word game to complete. Some had words that triggered thoughts about time -- an alarm clock, for instance -- while for others the words triggered thoughts of money. Others, the controls, played with neutral words. Then the volunteers completed a questionnaire -- ostensibly unrelated -- in which they rated a variety of life activities, from sex to praying to commuting and working. How likely are you to engage in this activity during the next 24 hours? How happy will it make you? Those with time on their mind preferred to hang out with friends and family, while those thinking of money were much more focused on work. They even looked forward to commuting to work.

To find out if financial neediness wasn't confounding her findings, Mogilner ran this experiment with low-income volunteers. When their thoughts turned to time, these volunteers too were motivated to spend time with friends and family. But priming thoughts of money did not motivate low-income volunteers to work more. Perhaps because more work would not yield much more money.

Mogilner's findings add to a growing consensus among psychological scientists that "self talk" can be a powerful tool for controlling our errant thinking. As I describe in my new book, On Second Thought: Outsmarting Your Mind's Hard-Wired Habits, often all we have to do to side-step destructive decisions and judgments is to be aware of the mind's perilous proclivities. That awareness of our own thinking creates the possibility of change -- sometimes with something as simple as thinking about clocks and calendars.

JJS: Mind control sounds cool. What can individuals tell themselves to convince themselves that being a “good peasant” is self-destructive, even society-destructive? What can we tell ourselves to feel equal to our betters, to feel worthy of justice, to feel entitled to a fair share of what was created for all of us to share? If people felt enough self-esteem, we’d enjoy plenty of social justice. We’d vote in geonomics, make it the law of the land, and we’d all live in comfort, without having to choose between time and money or trick our brains to soft-pedal any part of reality.


Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.

Also see:

Today's College Students Lacking in Empathy

US aid rules in Somalia are impossible, says UN envoy

Convenience and Hindrance in One

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