De quoi garder le sourire

LONDRES – Au moment où je prends la plume, ma femme me lance un défi de circonstances : « Noël approche, époque de paix et de réjouissances. Et si tu essayais d'écrire quelque chose qui rende les gens heureux ? »

Cette demande en apparence badine est en fait une tâche redoutable. Le virus Ebola décime les populations et les moyens de subsistance en Afrique de l'Ouest. Une légion de brutes islamistes terrorise la Syrie et l'Irak. Les forces du président russe Vladimir Poutine ont envahi la Crimée et l'Est de l'Ukraine. Ajoutez à cela une économie mondiale chancelante et il semble y avoir peu de raisons de se réjouir en cette fin d'année.

Mais le bonheur est un phénomène complexe. Les personnes qui vivent dans la misère peuvent se sentir plus heureuses, plus souvent que leurs homologues plus « riches ». C'est ce genre de contradiction qui alimente les recherches en sciences sociales et en neurologie, consacrées à cette question séculaire : quel est le secret du bonheur ?

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