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I once read that happiness plateaus after $75,000 a year. Before you get to the “magic number,” increases in income correspond to increases in happiness. After that, more money won’t buy you more happiness.

I believe it, but it’s hard to believe. By this metric, I should have already reached maximum happiness. And yet there are things I feel sure would make me happier if I could afford them.

One of those things is a bigger bed. My husband John and I have slept on a full-size (AKA double) mattress for almost ten years. This once seemed normal, but now it seems ridiculously small, though our sizes haven’t changed much. Over the past decade, we may have each gained five pounds. More crucially, John is 6′ 4″. A full-size mattress is 75 inches long. That makes him one inch longer than the bed. He’s also an insomniac (of the sleep-onset variety), a restless sleeper, and occasional snorer. I fall asleep easily, but wake up easily too, and in the early morning hours I find it hard to go back to sleep. I feel sure that we’d both get more and better sleep, and thus be happier, in a bigger bed. More… “Time, Money, Happiness”

Elisa Gabbert is the author of L’Heure Bleue, or the Judy Poems (Black Ocean), The Self Unstable (Black Ocean) and The French Exit (Birds LLC). Follow her on Twitter at @egabbert.
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What if happiness is impossible? What if “men are always discontented because they are always unhappy?” What if, in their hearts, “they feel and they are well aware that they are unhappy, that they suffer, that they do not find enjoyment, and in that they are not wrong?” What if this unhappiness is increased by the fact that men “think they have the right to be happy, to enjoy life, not to suffer, and in that too they would not be wrong, if it were not for the fact that what they expect is, if nothing else, impossible?”

Zibaldone by Giacomo Leopardi. 2,592 pages. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. $75.

Hard thoughts, especially for those of us who live in a country that declared, in one of its founding documents, that the pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right.

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At the turn of the 20th century, Harvard University faced a quandary: Where should the new psychology department reside — among the science buildings, or in the new philosophy center, Emerson Hall? The argument was over more than just physical territory: It was about who was more qualified to make statements about human nature — philosophers or scientists. Psychology used to fall in the realm of philosophers, theologians, and the occasional metaphysicians. But with the rise of the theory of evolution, the release of the first comprehensive psychological textbook, and the rock-starification of natural scientists, even the American Psychological Association was holding seminars called “The Affiliation of Psychology: With Philosophy or with the Natural Sciences?”

Is psychology of the brain, or of the soul? Philosophers won Round 1 when Harvard’s psychology department was ultimately housed at Emerson Hall,… More…

 

I’m sad. I just learned that my own country didn’t score very high on the annual Happiness Index. I’m thinking of moving to Denmark. What does a poet do when he or she gets sad like I am? — Justin L. , Kansas City, Missouri

I’m a little sad, too, and right now I’m drinking chai from a teacup made in Uzbekistan. I like this cup, deep blue with white swirls that represent the cotton plant (ok oltin as it is called in Uzbek, “White Gold”). And I like chai, sharing a semantic kinship with the Uzbek word for tea, choy, its vapors steadily tugging at my heart with a longing nostalgia. I’m not drinking chai because it’s delicious — well, not entirely. I’m not drinking it because I like it and hope that it will uplift my… More…