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Friday, January 28, 2022
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Opinion | When Michigan Beat Ohio State, I Cried Tears of Joy


He’s right. During the football game, my mind never left the scene. In fact, during particularly tense sporting events I find it difficult to eat or drink, as my body is also entirely devoted to the task of the game.

But let’s be clear: The joy of a college football game is not the same as the joy of getting married or having a child. (Or is it?) Dr. Waldinger told me that there were three basic types of happiness. The first is hedonic, which is exactly what it sounds like. “It’s like, ‘I’m happy right now because I’m drinking a great cup of coffee or I’m at a good party and I’m having an interesting conversation.’” Or, say, winning a football game after ten years of suffering through losses that have been absolute heartbreak.

Then there’s eudaimonic well-being. That is the happiness that results from doing something meaningful. Dr. Waldinger said that you could be putting your 2-year-old child to bed, and she wants you to read her “Good Night Moon” for the 10th time, and you are exhausted. “It’s the last thing you want to do, but you can’t think of anything more meaningful than reading to your 2-year-old to help her go to sleep.”

Finally, there’s what he called “psychological richness,” a form of happiness in which people value interesting experiences — going parasailing, traveling to exotic locations. We all like to have some of each of the three forms of happiness, Dr. Waldinger says, but some of us prioritize some more than others. I think I know where I stand.

I also wanted to know: Could I possibly take my hedonic happiness from Michigan’s winning a very important football game and make it last?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. No matter how many times I watch replays of the game and bother people who likely do not care with meaningless statistics from the game, i.e., that Hassan Haskins ran for 169 yards and scored five touchdowns.

“Happiness is a transient phenomenon,” Dr. Waldinger told me. We all know this to be true, of course, despite my hope that it might not always be. And we don’t even know sometimes why we feel good one minute and terrible the next.



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