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Archive for December 7th, 2007

Make no mistake about it. Many people enter politics for one fairly simple reason — it’s highly stimulating.

Look at the candidates running for President. Crowds of people hanging on their every word. New cities and towns to visit. Staff members who need direction and leadership. Policy statements that gain national media attention. Every moment of the candidate’s waking day is filled with endless excitement, stimulation and energy. It’s a drug of sorts, a kind of natural high.

And boy do they like it. They like it a lot.

If we’ve learned anything, though, about stimulation and excitement it’s this — it never lasts at the same level as it began. Thus, is it any wonder the media gets bored with one campaigner or our politicians become bored with the dull, seemingly routine mechanics of governing? Nothing quite compares to the race. Nothing beats a good rally.

But at what price? Do we elect people on their ability to excite us or on their ability to govern and get things done? Perhaps what we need in positions of power and national leadership are not seekers of stimulation, but men and women of quiet accomplishments, fortitude and intelligence.

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A recent study confirmed what most people believe about homeless people — they report low levels of satisfaction, especially with material resources such as income and housing.

But the study also found some surprising and unexpected findings.

For example, those studied (which included two groups in the U.S. and one in Calcutta) reported self-satisfaction levels above neutral. In other words, despite their dire straits, many of them felt good about themselves, including their morality, physical appearance and intelligence.

Another surprising finding revolved around food. While the homeless were on average dissatisfied with their income and housing conditions, they reported above-neutral levels with regard to food. Several explanations could explain for this finding, including a belief that their expectations were so low to begin with that any food was appreciated. It could also be explained by the fact since they were so hungry, they were more likely to enjoy the food they did receive.

Perhaps the most interesting finding was that the Calcutta groups reported high life satisfaction, despite their terrible environmental conditions. One possible reason — the Calcutta groups demonstrated strong social relationships, which may help protect them against the negative psychological effects of poverty.

The conclusion by researchers? Liking oneself may not be enough to counterbalance the psychological harm of material deprivation, but good social relationships just might.

SOURCE: The Subjective Well-Being of the Homeless, and Lessons for Happiness by Robert Biswas-Diener and Ed Diener

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