Several such studies seemed to imply that happiness seems to be relative, and adjusts as such. Thus something can make you happy, but most likely it will only be short lived. However, one variable they found which made you happier long term, was commuting time. The shorter your commuting time (for this study I believe it was to and from work) the happier you are, presumably as it gives you more time in the day to do things, and maybe you live in a close nit community etc. So in the case of commuting time it was found that individuals were happier both immediately after reducing commuting times as well as much further down the track (that is to say 18 months later and beyond).
Now the lecturer who told us this (Professor David Bradon Mitchell, a fabulous lecturer) happens to be a cyclist. So as the class filtered out after the lecture I went down and approached him, with a question set in my mind. I essentially went up to him and asked “But what about cycling?”
“Cycling!” he said, “Well that’s a whole different kettle of fish.” (Please note that those weren’t the lecturer’s exact words, although the meaning was identical. I suppose I am taking my artistic license a little far here by paraphrasing adlib!) We then proceeded to both talk about how as cyclists we were happier to have both exercise and travel time rolled into one, thus saving time. This in turn enabled us to spend more time on other pursuits such as leisure, which helps to make for a happier life. Also we get the many health benefits of exercise and as we both lived in the inner west (although he is now in Newtown and so close that he doesn’t really ride, as he can simply walk) we could even cycle around the city faster than cars and public transport in peak hour and heavy traffic.
Thus from a time saving point of view commuting by bike (this is of course again within the context of the city and inner suburbs) can indeed help to increase your happiness. So cycling is good for your health, your pocket and your happiness is there anything more we can learn from this? Yes, there is one other important lesson! As our rather humourous lecturer said in concluding this lecture “If there’s one thing you can learn from this whole philosophy course its don’t move out to the suburbs to buy a bigger house!”
I suppose another way cycling makes me happy is that I know I’m doing something good for me and the environment and thus those around me. I like helping people, and by cycling I feel I help everyone, albeit it in the smallest way. One person can really only create so much change. If you’re a completely average person without great finances or great intelligence or great determination or great luck or some other such quality how can you possibly completely change the world? Well as far as I’m concerned you can, sort of, but only within reason. By cycling every day I keep myself fit and healthy so that I can help others. I also do not create pollution for others to have to inhale or the planet to have to absorb. Lastly, and in some ways most importantly, by riding as often as I do I might make an important impression on some people who see me riding. I tell my friends, co workers and family of the benefits of cycling. So far I’ve got one friend cycling around, and I hope to convert many more.
The more people that start cycling the more people will see people cycling and the more other people will begin to cycle. In turn the more demand for cycling products and cycling infrastructure will increase and hopefully this demand will lead to greater research and development into both these sectors. This really puts the moral impetus on an individual’s action, a good thing to, as all of societies greatest accomplishments have ultimately been a joint effort. It really does create a positive snowball effect which gains momentum. The
Happiness is an interesting little topic, and a rather important one in my view. I will be sure to write more on the pursuit of happiness later in life, and if I do happen to study “The Philosophy of Happiness” as a course at Sydney Uni next year I’ll be sure to write more about the topic. So until then give yourself a piece of happy pie and savour the wait.