The Spaniard Alexander Cencerrado is a data analyst Copenhagen Happiness Institute in Denmark. In addition to working on measuring the perception of happiness – and unhappiness – in the world, he did the same with himself for 17 years. The result is the book “In Defense of Misfortune”.
“When I started I was a boy from Albacete, a small town in Spain; I was at school; I was a teenager with self-esteem issues; jealousy with my partner; with quarreling parents. He wasn’t happy even though he had a house, a television, a car. I have seen many conflicts; I said to myself that I wanted to be happy and I started writing about my happiness to try to find out what made me happy and to make it happier,” says Cencerrado. THE NATION.
The question that arises daily is Would you like a day like today to repeat itself? And he scored a scale from 0 to 10. The average gave him a 5. He didn’t achieve his main goal which was to reach 365 happy days and he didn’t because there are as many good days as bad; because “repeating what makes us happy is not enough” and because “we are happy instead”.
Cencerrado doubts permanent happiness and those who always show themselves well: “We are programmed to be dissatisfied. No matter how many exams we pass and no matter how many times we fall in love, we always fall back into the mistake of thinking that in another place or with another person we would be better off, that ultimate happiness will be found, this time after that pay rise or in a new life in another city. But ultimate happiness never comes”.
-Why the title? Why “unhappiness” in the title of your book?
-Because we adapt to everything and we have to do without things that bring happiness to enjoy it. For example, until we run out of health, we don’t realize how important it is. The misfortune is necessary; the most relaxing weekend is after the most stressful days.
– To say that “unhappiness is necessary” is politically incorrect.
-It’s like the engine of our brain to move forward. If we’re lying on the sofa always happy, why would we get up? Disagreement is for moving forward. Stress, loneliness, boredom are emotions that push us to move. Being alone and unhappy leads us to seek a tribe where we can take refuge; boredom makes us look for ways to progress. These are emotions we don’t want but are good for our survival.
– At what dose?
– It’s a limit of what I can contribute because the study focused on myself. In the end, I’m middle class, I’ve never lacked anything… I’m not a sample of the world in general. But it is true that stress in a certain dose serves to avoid anxiety or depression. What I’m saying is unhappiness is normal; we are in a society too focused on saying that you have to be well all the time and that it is impossible.
– Doesn’t it end up being a pressure?
–It’s that in the end it’s a stress. You compare yourself to all the people who are still doing well and in the end you think the only one that anything is happening to is you. My biggest criticism of self-help books is that happiness is up to us and context doesn’t matter. And it’s not like that. It’s not all up to us. It’s not that if I’m bad at work the only responsible is me, there are conditions that can collaborate.
– Saying that he never lacked for anything and that even so he was not happy is not like asking ‘how can he be depressed if he has a job, a family’?
-Emphasizing why if you have everything you are not happy sounds like an emotion guru. You are not depressed just because you have made bad decisions in life. A psychiatrist I interviewed for the book says that for many years his patients with depression and anxiety were people under the stress of poverty and that recently there are more and more people who, even with a good economic life, live beyond dopamine -the pleasure hormone- but they are still addicted to mobile phones, continuous excitement… With this continuous search for pleasure we have lost a little the contrast.
– In 17 years of annotations, your average was 5. Does this coincide with the average of the overall measurements made at the Institute?
–No. I wondered, to measure my daily happiness, if I wanted the day to repeat itself. At the Institute, we ask you if you are satisfied with life; in Argentina it is 6.7. The first focuses on the person; in the second, more general aspects are taken into account.
– Are you satisfied with your life? From 1 to 10?
-Eight. We are well aware that the questions follow two clearly differentiated paths.
-How much have your annotations changed in those 17 years?
-When I reread my teenage diary I see that the problems with my parents are repeated; those of self-esteem linked to the fact that the girl I liked didn’t pay attention to me; fear of failing exams. Today it is quite different; I have a wonderful wife; work. I was also more intense in the good and the bad, now I have less ups and downs.