to Dr Arnall, of the University of Cardiff, January 24 is the most
depressing day of the year, if you live in the northern hemisphere.
He supports his claim, not by speculation or anecdote, but through
science, and he has an equation to prove it. His model breaks down
as: (W + (D-d)) x TQ divided by M x NA, where W is weather, D debt,
d monthly salary, T time since Christmas, Q time since failed quit
attempt, M low motivational levels and NA the need to take action.
If the science makes no sense to you, what he is saying is that,
by January 24, if you live in the northern hemisphere, the fun of
Christmas has worn off, credit-card bills are coming in, the days
are cold and dark, and all those resolutions you made for the new
year have been broken. In other words, you're sitting around feeling
sorry for yourself because you're fat, broke, living in a rainy
dreary climate and probably smoking too much.
course, if you live in the southern hemisphere, then certain parts
of the equation are defunct, particularly the weather. In fact,
the condition of 'seasonal affective disorder', or SAD, as it is
fittingly known, a type of depression that follows the seasons,
is more common the farther north you go. Of course, you can still
be fat, broke and too hot in the summer in South Africa but, scientifically
speaking, South Africans should be happy people with all the sunshine.
the World Database of Happiness (yes, it does exist) rates South
Africa as 'a middle-of-range' place when it comes to happiness.
South Africa scores 5,5 on the happiness scale, along with Kenya,
Lebanon and South Korea. Denmark and Switzerland are allegedly happy
places, scoring over 8. Ireland and the UK score in the high range,
with 7,6 and 7,1 respectively. Zimbabwe and Moldova are among the
unhappiest places on earth.
said that, the database also highlights inequality in responses
between those reporting high and those reporting low levels of happiness.
South Africa has a high inequality score, meaning that, although
South Africans are, on average, moderately happy, some people are
clearly much happier than others. This is not surprising, given
the disparities in the country. That said, I am not convinced by
the science of happiness and I take issue with Arnall's equation,
because it is not culturally and contextually relevant. So let me
help him out. If he wanted an equation for happiness in Northern
Ireland, it would have to go something like this: (W + (D-d)) x
TQ divided by M x NA, where W is the weather (of course), D downtime
of the political institutions, d monthly salary paid to politicians
for not participating in the downed political institutions, T time
spent complaining that someone else has got more political concessions
than you, Q time passed since blaming someone else for all your
problems, M low motivational levels, owing to excessive intake of
chips and Guinness and NA the time wasted watching too much reality
TV. And for South Africa, happiness could be measured as (W + (D-d))
x TQ divided by M x NA, where (W) is wealth (meaning having your
basic needs met, not being affluent, because we all know money cannot
buy happiness), D political downtime since the last corruption scandal
or the firing of a Deputy President, d monthly salary spent on replacing
stolen goods, T time wasted filling in insurance forms, Q time spent
braaing on the weekends, M low motivational levels, owing to losing
to Australia at cricket or rugby or watching Bafana Bafana crash
out of a major soccer tournament, and NA time wasted believing everything
you read in newspapers and magazines.
Hamber writes the column "Look South": an analysis
of trends in global political, social and cultural life and its
relevance to South Africa on Polity, see http://www.polity.co.za/pol/opinion/brandon/.
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