You can't put a price on joy

It's official: Going to the gym makes us sad, but people who dance, swim and go to the library seemed to be happier

 

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You'll be happy to know that your government takes your happiness very seriously, and last week, to prove it, it published the latest data from its bizarre experiments in measuring joy. This year it was the turn of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to announce: it has done the research, and going to the gym definitely makes you sadder.

This conclusion comes from a study of 40,000 people who were asked to report their "subjective wellbeing". People who dance, swim and go to the library seemed to be happier, it revealed, but going to the gym was linked to a lack of happiness. Then, because this is a government department, the DCMS went and attached monetary values to everything. So, dancing is equivalent to a £1,671 per year pay rise, whereas working out at the gym is like being £1,318 a year worse off. Although, that could be because joining a gym makes you about £1,318 a year worse off....

I know what you're thinking, and you're right: this is the same DCMS whose policies are causing all the libraries to close. Perhaps they aim to do the same for dancing by banning weddings and shutting all the gay bars.

This announcement follows a 2012 survey by the Office for National Statistics, which studied 80,000 people to discover that we are generally happier if we are healthy, married, financially comfortable and in a steady job. The year before that, government research revealed that living closer to work is nicer.

It's good, sometimes, to be reminded that some of the best things in life are free. Two weeks ago, I wrote in this paper about privilege, and then I went for a run in Richmond Park and found myself just feet from a deer. I felt like the most privileged girl in the world that day, but I already knew that I am lucky to have good health and live near a Royal Park. And frankly, I'd be happier if the Government didn't try to allocate financial values to all life's little pleasures.

Sooner or later, all these happiness surveys start to come across as smug. Happiness is being well paid, living close to work and having access to a library, they say. Presumably, having your beer subsidised by the taxpayer doesn't hurt. If you want to be happy, then, get a job in the government. But please don't rub all our noses in it.

Sport: can kids be bothered?

Also last week, another study showed that, lo and behold, children do not enjoy competitive sports. Two out of three of them would be "relieved" or "not bothered" if competition were removed from school PE, they said. Sporty types at the MCC, which commissioned the survey, claimed to be shocked and alarmed, but the majority of us who did not excel at school sports were all like, yeah, well duh.

Again, if the MCC had read any other studies they'd see that 51 per cent of girls are put off sport by school PE (Loughborough University, 2012), and that having to compete is most of the problem. It took me 20 years (and Alexandra Heminsley's book Running Like a Girl) to enjoy jogging again after PE lessons made it so miserable. If we want to make children happy and fit, let them skip PE and run (in their own time) to the library instead.

Leave the childless alone

Spare us the pitying headlines about the idiot couples "left childless" because they haven't had enough conversations about whether or not to have kids.

Research from the British Sociological Association has been presented this way, with apparently "four in 10 childless couples" having had only one conversation about whether they should become parents, and thereby not getting around to having children at all.

Surely if both partners agree that they like their lives quite well enough without offspring, there's not really much to talk about. What should concern us more is couples who become parents by accident, assumption, or on a whim, without sufficiently discussing all the consequences, and are then surprised when raising children turns out to be quite hard.

The next time someone asks me, in that incredulous tone, just why I don't want to have kids, I may turn the question back on them. "What, you have children? Really? Have you actually thought about it, though? But what if you change your mind when it's too late?"... and so on. Rude, isn't it?

Don't apologise for good news

Aaron Sorkin has "apologised" for The Newsroom, saying he is "just now starting to learn how to write" the sentimental drama set in a television news station. There is nothing to apologise for! Just like the fantasy newsroom of journalists' dreams, the show has adrenalin, passion, integrity and drama, and a brilliant female boss running around chasing stories. I can't wait for the next series. Let's do the news!

It's time to gryll Bear

A new all-male survival show starring Bear Grylls has come under fire for being sexist, while Ben Fogle has been named one of Britain's top gentlemen.

Men, if you want to be brave, butch and gentlemanly, here's an idea: don't leave your wife alone with the kids while you disappear for months of naked bonding with your bloke pals; stay home and raise your kids instead.

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