HOW TO BE HAPPIER

We would all like to know how to be happier and the answer may be a lot more simple than we thought.

Five happy women illustrate how to be happier.

Flor, Marsha, Iris, Pilin and Lali – happy to be together.

I typed ‘how to be happier’ into Google and in 0.43 seconds received 228 million listings. Give each one two minutes and it will take almost a year (reading 24/7) to read them all.

There are a lot of people writing about how to be happier – probably because they aren’t happy themselves – and even more of us are reading about how to be happier when there’s not a whole lot to be happy about.

We live in stressful times – cowardly wars, flash fires, rising sea levels, poverty and homelessness in the planet’s richest nations – the US, UK, France. We see every day on our televisions scenes of mutilated babies in bombed hospitals, weeping grandmothers, missiles raining down from supersonic jets on cramped, undefended cities.

In my search for how to be happier, the NHS came up first on Google with the following bland suggestions:

  • Regular exercise, practice breathing techniques, watch funny videos and sports with friends. Do something you are good at like cooking or dancing. Boost your self-esteem by treating yourself as you would treat a valued friend, in a positive but honest way.
  • Limit alcohol, choose a balanced diet, get enough sleep, build your resilience. Start a support group to help others. Make something creative out of bad experiences by, for example, writing, painting or singing. Share problems with a friend, family member or counsellor.

Current waiting time for a counsellor, depending on your postcode, is 26 weeks. If you want to talk anonymously or urgently, you can call the Samaritans 24 hours a day on 116 123.

The NHS list is positive but lacks guidelines or support; a flatpack chest of drawers without instructions. Happiness is illusive, impossible to define, as slippery as an eel, hard to catch, harder to hang on to. On a perfectly pleasant day you may see someone suffering or homeless and feel hopeless and in turn sad that you can do nothing about it. If one is essentially content, this feeling of despair is impermanent, but the 228 million Google listings on how to be happier show a need for a more solid and tangible answer.

How To Be Happier Reality

A survey that has been examining happiness since the 1930s has finally come up with that answer and published the results in The Good Life – Lessons from the World’s Longest Study on Happiness. The Harvard Study of Adult Development has followed the same 700 people and their families over many decades to determine what makes people thrive and feel joyful. They asked thousands of qualitative questions as well as taking hundreds of quantitative health measurements from brain scans to blood work.

In the 1930s, participants were chosen from either Harvard’s male students or young men from the low-income suburbs of Boston. Every five years, they provided medical information and every two years, they answered detailed questions. Their wives and children later joined the study and the Harvard team has continued to track the group through work, marriage, divorce and death. Twenty-five participants left their brains to the study after they died.

Professor Robert Waldinger is the fourth director of the project over its lifetime. ‘What we learned,’ he said, ‘is that people believe happiness is something they can achieve – if they buy that house or get a promotion or lose enough weight, then happiness will follow. We act as if happiness is a destination we will get to if we tick the right boxes, but the data clearly shows that this is simply not true. And that’s a good thing, as contentment is no longer something out of reach, but eminently achievable for all of us.’

It turns out that money does not make people happy, nor does your job, station, rank or achievements. Happiness depends on relationships and connections. ‘Whether these are in the form of friendships, book clubs, romantic attachments, church groups, sports partners or co-workers, the people with the strongest social bonds and connections in their 50s, are the most contented and in the best shape in their 80s.’

 

 

Posted in Blog.

2 Comments

  1. The findings are correct . As the individual is in a permanent connective ,and interactive relationship, with all of his own species and beyond it is simply not possible to achieve happiness in isolation . As part of the collective i am responsible for your happiness and you are part of mine . We are one .Our happiness depends on all of us looking after each other . Any happiness that is achieved through the self alone is just masturbation.I find that hugging everyone all the time both literally and emotionally helps to combat the pain that mankind is suffering due to our separation from each other. The illusion of separateness pushed by the purveyors of free will aka personal autonomy is the root cause of all our unhappiness. And we all know who they are .

  2. Connection and good friendships really are one of the most important factors in a happy life. Yet, so many people do not have this for various reasons. Some desire it and don’t know how or lack the skills/knowledge to create those connections. They need help in this.

    There are also other contributing factors to a happy life, like good health, gratitude, meaningful contribution and sense of purpose. Some of which are highlighted in your article. 😉

    It is not always as simple as saying you just need this 1 thing to be happy. Happiness is complex and it’s different for everyone. Just like we all have different goals, we all define our individual happiness differently. Some people have lost sight of how to be happy and need a little help to rediscover the joy of life. That’s where Coaching can help.

    Now that the conversation has been started, what is happiness for you?

    Spending time with family and friends in a pleasant place enjoying good company satisfies my soul, while riding a mountain road on my motorbike satisfies me in a completely different way.
    Laughing at a good joke (which I try to do regularly) helps me feel and communicate my happiness in a healthy way.
    Being able to provide a house and home for my family satisfies the protector in me, while being grateful for everything that I currently have (family, house, food, motorbike, etc,) helps me to appreciate the lifetime of hard work, effort and sacrifices I have made.
    Being able to share my knowledge to give back and help others gives me a purpose and reason to get up and get moving every day and delivers it’s own form of satisfaction in being able to help and serve. It feels good to help others and that makes me happy also.

    So there is more than 1 aspect to happiness, and while I absolutely agree that relationships and connections are important, I would argue that they’re not the only thing we need to be happy.

    What do you think?

    What makes you happy?

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