What Will Make Us Happy?
Being happy is something we all strive to achieve. Admit it. How many times have you said “I’d be happy if…”, or “I’ll be happy when…”? But somehow we are still chasing that happiness. So why is that? Why aren’t we happier in our day to day lives?
The dictionary defines “happiness” as the state of being happy and then “happy” is defined as “feeling or showing contentment”. So we know from this that happiness is a state. A place where we reside in our lives where we feel contentment.
The research shows that there are some key factors that help maintain this state or get us back to this state when we feel we have slipped.
The highest-ranking measure of our happiness is our social engagement. Do we have a supportive network, close friends and/or family we are connected to? People with these connections more often report being in the state of happiness.
The second highest-ranking factor was money. But there are some caveats with the money factor. It seems that there are money thresholds with happiness. We know money can’t buy happiness, but the money you earn that makes your life easier – getting out of the poverty zone, achieving a goal like buying your first house – those are the money factors that bring happiness. When money becomes more important than our social relationships, or when we have so much of it that it loses its value, it can actually make us more unhappy.
Where we live plays a part in how happy we are. The United Nations did a study in 2012 and reported the happiness rankings by country. The factors that went into this ranking were Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita (Gross Domestic Product measures how our economy is doing), healthy life expectancy, the freedom to make life choices, social support, generosity, and perceptions of corruption. The United States ranked 19th out of 52 countries. Countries with lower GDP and who are suffering with war-torn situations, of course, rank low on the list of happiness measures. This last report in 2012, showed that the US had slipped in rankings from the previous report. Some research points to the addiction problems that are prevalent in America as a cause for our slip in rank.
Another interesting factor is how we see the world. Do you see the glass half empty or half full? Do you worry about the past or think of the good times? Do you catastrophize about what hasn’t happened or do you look forward to the great things ahead? Our outlook can play a role in how happy we feel day to day.
So what makes you the happiest? Is it a secure financial future? Is it being with family and friends? Is it feeling like you have a purpose? Is it your home? What factor weighs the most is something we each have to determine and cultivate. As we do more of what makes us happy, our brains become happier. It is like training your happiness muscle.
Now that you know all this, take some time to notice and list out when you are happy. You might want to keep a journal for a week or a month and every time you smile or laugh or feel peace and ease, write it down. After this journaling phase, go back and look at trends. Make a list of the times when you were the happiest. And then you can start to cultivate those moments with purpose and a plan.
Grow your happiness one moment at a time. Share your happiness one moment at a time, and before you know it your whole world will be a happier place.