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“Happiness is the opposite of bad luck”

In the middle of this mad time, I wondered what happiness actually means for those we never ask about it: children. This is why I decided to interview them myself. The result was amusing and sometimes profound answers to questions which even adults do not find all that easy to answer. An article by Charlotte Hirsbrunner.

9 June 2021.

How would you describe happiness in your own words?

“When you win a quiz or are proposed to.” Lisa, 12

“When something good happens to you or when you do something that turns out much better than you first thought.” Simon, 12

“Happiness can’t be influenced. Sometimes you’re happy and sometimes you’re not. But when you’re happy, then it’s a great joy.” Lars, 12

“When you win something, for example a game. Or when you meet someone you love and who’s there for you.” Sarah, 11

The term “happiness”

In my own words, I probably wouldn’t be able to describe the term “happiness” better than the four primary school pupils Lisa, Simon, Lars and Sarah. If somebody asked me about it, my answer would probably be that happiness is “a favourable act of providence by the universe.” But if I myself find it difficult to define “happiness”, mustn’t it be twice as difficult for children who are half my age? Could at least be conceivable. But children often see things much more clearly and think of things that adults don’t even recognise any longer. Thus about three in four of the total of 30 children who were interviewed associated happiness with coming first in a game or in a sport. Although this is obvious, I wouldn’t have thought of it personally. My favourite answer, however, came from eleven-year-old Milena, who wrote with a pink glitter pen: “Happiness is the opposite of bad luck.” A concise and impish answer – I like it!

When do you feel happiest and most at ease?

“I feel most at ease when I’m alone in my room or with my family. I also feel good when I’m doing something with my best friend.” Lisa

“When I’m doing something with my family.” Simon

“At home with my family and friends and in the football club.” Lars

“I feel most at ease when I’m with my family and when they’re there for me.” Sarah

Most children emphasise that they feel happiest when they can spend time with their family and friends. Six children feel happiest when they are alone, and nine children enjoy the company of animals.

Do you think that people who have a lot of money are happier than people who don’t have so much money?

“No, I don’t think so. You can also be happy even if you don’t have much money.” Lisa

“That depends. If I can choose, then I’d choose my family and not much money instead of only money and no family.” Simon

“Rich people have got only a few worries. But poor people often can’t pay their bills and need something like Hartz IV. But for me, money is still only of material value.” Lars

“I think that you’re not much happier when you’re rich because you then have to worry about all that money.” Sarah

How are happiness and money correlated?

Although I can’t remember whether I would have seen a correlation between happiness and money ten years ago, the answers to this question astonished me a great deal. Only Marcel thought that affluent people were happier than less affluent people. Unfortunately, he didn’t add the reasons for this answer and only wrote “Yes, rich people are happier.” All the others thought that rich people were primarily not happier for two reasons. Firstly, they’ve always got to be wary of false friends who are only after their money. And secondly, they’ve got everything already and are therefore unable to be pleased with the small things in life.

Did the corona virus have an influence on your well-being? Did you feel less happy during that time?

“Yes, because I like to do something with my friends. But now you can’t go out so much any longer.” Lisa

“Yes, because we were never able to do what we wanted as a family.” Simon

“I was less happy because I couldn’t play football any longer. I’m looking forward to playing football again soon.” Lars

“Yes, I did feel less happy. Above all because other people fall ill because of the corona virus and sometimes even die. I don’t think that’s good.” Sarah

Impact of the pandemic

The prolonged pandemic had a negative impact on the majority of the children. They couldn’t see their friends any longer and missed training with others in the sports clubs. However, four children perceived the effects of the pandemic as positive. They spent more time with themselves and enjoyed the peace and quiet. Two of them said that they read a great deal. The other two were given a dog and a rabbit, respectively. Consequently, they were pleased to be able to spend as much time a possible with their pets.

What is your greatest dream or wish?

“That there is no more war in the world, only peace. Also that there won’t be another corona virus.” Lisa

“My greatest wish is that nothing bad will happen to anyone in my family or to my friends.” Simon

“A happy life without any worries.” Lars

“I don’t actually have a big wish, only that everyone is happy and in good health.” Sarah

Association of happiness with good health

As a child, I used to write in autograph books that my greatest wish was a world without war. Interestingly, this wish is still topical. However, the health of family, friends and the children themselves was mentioned very often. Precisely this association of happiness with good health shows that certain things can’t be bought with money. For although money makes many things easier and eliminates problems, it is incapable of influencing the fate of an individual. Among all the well-considered answers, it was that of Marcel, who thought that rich people were happier, that made me smile. His dream is to own a Lamborghini Aventador SJV one day.

Charlotte Hirsbrunner is a second-semester student in the Master’s programme in International Affairs and Governance. This article was produced in connection with a workshop of the supplementary programme in Business Journalism headed by Stefanie Knoll, SRF, and is part of the series on “Money or Happiness”.

Image: Adobe Stock / Evgenia

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