Blissblogs: Thank you for coming today, especially as your thoughts on psychology are in great demand around the world. You mentioned that you had a few questions?
Dr. Schadenfreude: Yes, as a matter of fact I have many. To begin with, why are you people wasting time trying to spread information about happiness? People are born with a set amount of happiness due to their genetic makeup, and you can’t change that.
Blissblogs: Great question. As you know, the information we have on sets of twins separated from birth shows that, no matter how different their experiences and backgrounds, their mental states remain similar. But recent scientific studies show that people are able to improve their mood by changing the way they think or act. So why the similarity between twins? Until recently, we didn’t know much about how to prevent depression or become happier. Suppose that one of the twins I mentioned intentionally used the new science to become happier? It is difficult to put a figure on it, but our genetic background impacts about 50% of our psychological well being and our actions seem to affect between 30-50%.
Dr. Schadenfreude: How can you claim that we know more about happiness than we used to? People have struggled to become happier for thousands of years, and yet statistics show your average Joe is getting more depressed!
Blissblogs: Luckily enough, over the last twenty years or so, psychologists such as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Martin Seligman have carried out studies aimed at discovering the causes of happiness. These kinds of studies show that we can do concrete things to improve our mood and climb out of the gloom.
Dr Schadenfreude: Isn’t the pursuit of happiness a selfish pursuit? Shouldn’t we think more about how to improve the lives of the people around us?
Blissblogs: What the science of happiness seems to show, and ancient philosophy too, is that our happiness is very closely linked to the happiness of our fellow humans. We can become temporarily happier by going shopping and eating chocolate etc. But one of the most powerful ways of becoming happier in a deeper way is to care about the people around us. Small acts of generosity and kindness can have a huge effect. Recent studies have shown that happiness is quite infectious. The more happy we are, the happier the people around us, as well as the people who know those people!
Blissblogs: I think it’s my turn to ask a question. As people know you are highly influential around the world. Thanks to your philosophy, media and popular gossip columns love to talk about natural disasters and human tragedies, and especially the seedy lives of celebrities. Why do you encourage people to talk about bad news?
Dr. Schadenfreude: It makes people feel good! They realise that many of their fellow humans are having a harder time than they are. And they like to see the high and mighty turn into complete wrecks. Gossiping about the failures of colleagues and relatives works pretty well too. The more we put people down, the better we feel!
Blissblogs: I guess that could work. For about five minutes.
Dr. Schadenfreude: Yes, that’s why we have to keep publishing the bad news!
Blissblogs: (Laughs). Thank you so much for coming today, in spite of your busy job.
Dr. Schadenfreude: Thank you! The temporary pleasure was mine!