Please watch this TED talk by Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Laureate. In economics and other fields, people have been trying to measure happiness–how happy are various groups, how happy countries are compared to one another. I’ve seen Economist articles about quantifying happiness, like The Joyless or the Jobless (Nov 2010).
Kahneman deconstructs this quantification by saying the issue’s more complicated: do you care about happiness in the moment or do you care about happiness remembered?
His presentation addresses people’s fundamental assumptions about who they are. We have two sides: an experiencing self, who lives only in the moment; and a remembering self, who feasts on what we (remember we) have done in the past. The remembering self, for almost everyone, is the dominant one–it makes the decisions about what we should do next.