Thursday, November 13, 2014


3 Hobbies for a Happier You

from Social Monsters!

If you are feeling stressed out, burned out and generally worn out by all of the responsibilities of life, it might be time to get outside of your usual routine and activities and take up a new hobby.

Why Hobbies Make You Happy

As the Mayo Clinic notes, setting aside time on a regular basis for things you like to do—as opposed to tasks you have to do—can help to reduce your stress levels. In addition, taking up a new hobby can add to your well-being by learning new things or perhaps learning to do something in a different way.
Hobbies can also help you to connect with yourself. In many cases, hobbies will give you some quiet and private time to just unwind and do something you love. In addition, unlike other activities that require an outside source for happiness—like going to a show or spending time with friends—a hobby is a more intrinsic source of contentment.
Another really cool thing about hobbies is that there are so many of them that are available to try. From traditional ideas like stamp and coin collecting to outside-of-the-hobby-box activities like learning to skydive, there are a plethora of ideas. The only stipulation is that it is something that you genuinely enjoy doing. Here are a few suggestions to get you going:

Home Brewing Beer

If you enjoyed chemistry and physics in school and also love drinking a nice cold beer after a long day at work, give home brewing a try. The American Homebrewers Association is a terrific resource that will give you tips on which equipment to buy—surprisingly, it doesn’t take a lot of things to get started—as well as how to start your first batch. Home brewing beer also takes some trial and error and you can tweak things in each batch until you find one that is just the way you like it. As a bonus, it can be fun to invite your friends over to share your experimental home brews with them, and gather their opinions about which one is best.


Knitting is definitely not just for grannies anymore. Men and women of all ages can enjoy learning to knit. In addition to being a highly relaxing activity, it’s one that can give you a real sense of accomplishment. If you live in a cold area of the country, knitting can also provide you with needed and useful items for you and your friends like scarves and hats, and some churches have knitting clubs that allow members to create beautiful prayer shawls which are then given to people who are going through a hard time in their lives. Knowing that your hobby is benefiting others can be extremely rewarding.


Perhaps you owned a moped back in your college days, or your first car was actually a motorcycle. Whether you still have your motorbike gathering dust in your garage or you have just always wanted to try riding a motorcycle, this can be a terrific hobby to try. You can shop for a budget-friendly bike from a local motorcycle shop or peruse the online ads for a gently used model. In addition to joining a local motorcycle club, which will allow you to meet like-minded fans of the open road, it can be fun to learn to tinker on the bike and shop for new accessories. For example, online retailers like BikeBandit can give you a good idea of what safety equipment you should buy to get started, including motorcycle helmets and other gear.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Gross National Happiness of Students in Taiwan

Professor David Pendry is working with students in Taiwan to understand Gross National Happiness.
See the full report here.

I have recently conducted research measuring happiness levels among Taiwanese university students, and from these findings I would like to recommend changes to government and education policies. Measuring happiness in life has become steadily more important in recent years as an indicator of just how people are subsisting and developing, with an eye toward future success and serenity.
Many governments and other institutions are measuring happiness in populations and correlating
this with self-actualization, success and tranquility in life. Even Taiwan has explored these parameters, with the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics releasing the nation’s first Gross National Happiness index last year. This research found that Taiwanese had a “moderate” level of happiness.
However, what exactly is happiness? In addition to ostensible things like good feelings about life, satisfaction with friends, family and other relationships, excitement and fun, personal contentment and hope for the future, there are a few other important indicators to consider. External factors include material comforts and income; work satisfaction; vital community relations; decent governance; and access to education, arts and culture. More personal or internal factors include mental and physical health; rich values and religion; positive family experience; education; gender; and age.
Martin Seligman created the concept of PERMA to measure happiness, which refers to: Positive emotions; Engagement in life; Relationships; Meaning in life; and Accomplishments.
As this year’s UN World Happiness Report noted, the great thinkers and sages of world history have taught people that “material gain alone will not fulfill our deepest needs. Material life must be harnessed to meet these human needs, most importantly to promote the end of suffering, social justice, and the attainment of happiness.”

I conducted my survey measuring happiness factors using an index survey created by the Happiness Alliance, a large happiness organization in the US. Students from four colleges completed the survey. The data was collected in spring and fall this year, with one multiple sample that initially included 35 students in my culture and communication class at National Taipei College of Business — now National Taipei University of Business (NTUB) — which was increased by 89 more students in a combined group from NTUB and Tamkang University near Taipei in the fall.
Additionally, there were samples from Chien Hsin University of Science and Technology, south of Taipei (26 students), and Shih Hsin University in Taipei (58 to 64 students). The “domains” measured in the research included: satisfaction with life; material wellbeing; governance; environment; community vitality; social support; access to education, arts and culture; mental wellbeing; health; time balance; and work.
In a somewhat disturbing turn, the results showed that the students were not very happy and they scored decidedly lower than worldwide averages on several measures. Interestingly and compellingly, the lowest scores were in the “community” category and the related “social support” category. The figures in the community domain are fully 21 to 30 points less than the total worldwide average, a difference of 40 to 57 percent lower. The social support figures are 7 to 15 percent lower.