I can’t be the only one who is striving to be happier? Being the dork that I am, I have spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out what makes people happy. On the happiness scale of 1-10 I feel like I’m around a 7. I aspire to be an 8 or a 9, believing that a perfect 10 is unattainable. My New Year’s resolution is to be happier. I started with the definition of happy which is too simplistic for me:
feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.
There has to be more to it than that.
Is contentment happiness? Is financial success happiness? What causes people to genuinely be happy? When I look at this brief definition of the word, it seems like happy is more about feeling pleasure than it is about showing it. Aren’t there a lot of people who show it but aren’t really happy?
In today’s frantic, ever-changing world, happiness happens to be a hot topic. It’s not just the Boomers, many of whom, have spent their careers, working ridiculous hours, always striving for more, just to realize more doesn’t equate to happiness. Take the Millennials for example. They are all about happy! Many of them have observed their parents working their asses off, just to get kicked to curb late in their careers. As a group, they refuse to waste their personal time commuting to and from work. The Millennials understand that “30-years and a gold watch” is no longer a reality. They aren’t just talking about quality of life; they expect it. Flexibility in their work schedules is of the utmost importance. Oh and if they aren’t happy in a certain situation they are perfectly willing to move on to something else (that makes them happy).
Businesses are finally starting to figure out that happy employees are more productive. They’ve known all along that better productivity translates to better profits; however it starts with happiness.
There’s even a country in South Asia called Bhutan that understands the important role happiness plays in how they run the country. Way back in 1972, the king of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, is credited with bringing up the notion that “Gross National Happiness”is a more important measure for government than “Gross National Product”. To this day the country measures and makes policy decisions based on GNH scores.
Interestingly, psychologists haven’t been able to draw a correlation between external factors and a person’s happiness. How many times have we heard the expression, “Money can’t buy happiness”? Apparently, there’s only a certain amount of truth in this worn out cliche. In a recent LiveScience article, they shared the results of a study on money’s affect on happiness…
“Money that lifts people out of poverty increases happiness, but after that, the better paychecks stop paying off sense-of-well-being dividends.”
It’s also true that money affects happiness when a person is disabled or in bad health. It’s logical that having financial resources in these situations results in better medical care and ultimately a higher level of happiness.
Based on this information the following conclusion could be drawn:
If you are healthy and your income allows you to meet your basic needs, making more money doesn’t provide much lift on the happiness scale. Does this mean we should be happy with the status quo? I always thought that it was human nature to strive for more.
When I was growing up my parents would say, “We don’t care what you do, as long as you are happy”. That wasn’t much to go on but I bought in. Happiness came naturally for me through high school and college. I always had lots of friends and we never took life too seriously. My perspective changed when I graduated from college and stepped out into the real world. It didn’t take me long to realize I’d have to get a little more serious if I was going find a decent career and live on my own.
As time went on, my curiosity about happiness grew. I’ve always wondered, in spite of their circumstances, why some people seem happy and others seem miserable. I spent a long time looking for that balance between having fun and handling life’s serious matters. I’m still searching…
In the April 2017 issue of Psychology Today I learned that genetics have something to do with an individual’s happiness:
Regardless of how it’s defined, happiness is partly emotional—and therefore tethered to the truth that each individual’s feelings have a natural set point, like a thermostat, which genetic baggage and personality play a role in establishing. Yes, positive events give you a boost, but before long you swing back toward your natural set point.
This doesn’t mean that people with lots of genetic baggage can’t be happy. They just need to be aware that they have a natural set point and then discover ways to maximize their happiness in spite of it.
As I read over this blog it’s apparent that I unearthed more questions than I answered. While there’s plenty of quantitative research out there, qualitative input is just as important. With that in mind, I’d love to hear from you! What is happiness? What makes you happy? Any suggestions on how to improve our level of happiness? Happy New Year!