Have you ever wondered what truly makes us happy?
These photos were taken at Porteau Cove Provincial park in Squamish. I wanted to share these photos but also wanted to write something meaningful other than just talk about the superficial events that happened. I had an epiphany when my friend said “you guys look so happy in these pictures.” Then I wanted to write something relating to the topic of ‘Happiness’. In the past, I just posted fashion and travel photos, but I want to really communicate with whoever come across this blog my experiences and what I have learned to hopefully inspire you to take on different perspectives. So I will use this blog as a channel to connect not only our taste in fashion, but also outlooks on life.
I’d like to talk about the meaning of happiness and how to achieve happiness. Of course everyone has their own definition because our values are all different. But what I will be sharing today is what I learned in school and over the years, and I truly believe this is universal. First, I’d like to get a little Science-y/Nerdy and break out some research findings that may clear up some misconceptions about happiness.
Number 1: After a certain point, happiness is INDEPENDENT of wealth (how much money you have)!
Psychologist have done research to measure the happiness level of people between nation as well as within nations. What they found was that people in first world countries on average have higher happiness levels compared to people living in third world countries. However, they looked at the happiness level of various social class within the first world nations and found that there was no significant difference between people of low, medium and high socioeconomic status. The conclusion? Our humanly basic needs are required for us to feel happy. We as humans need the essentials for survival such as food, clothing, shelter, access to healthcare, and a peaceful living environment. However, as soon as those basic needs are met, our happiness no longer depends on wealth. A person who makes 10 million a year has the same level of happiness as someone who makes 50K.
Number 2: Long-term happiness doesn’t depend on uncontrollable external events.
Psychologists also interviewed people who went through various life events. In particular they measured the happiness level of people who won the lottery and people who had a traumatic event (illness, car accident, death of a loved one etc.). The researchers evaluated the happiness level of these people 3 days after the life-altering events and followed these individuals and did a second evaluation 3 years later. The researchers used another group who didn’t have anything happen as the ‘control’/baseline happiness level. The finding? As expected, on average the post 3-day evaluation showed drastic difference in the happiness level between these groups. The lottery-winners had significantly higher happiness level compared to the control group and the people with an adverse experience had significantly lower happiness levels compared to the control. But, when they did the same experiment after 3 years, all groups had similar levels of happiness compared to the ‘control’. Conclusion? Happiness can be affected TEMPORARILY by what happens to us. But long-term happiness is independent of those external events.
So, what truly makes us happy in the long-run? Psychologist have done years of research, survey, investigation to put together 4 points that they find are universal to humanity. They are listed in order of importance:
Good social relationships
Take home message? Do feel empowered that YOU have the ability to feel happy.
Good social relationships: We can all work on our relationship with people around us including our family, friends, spouse, boss, and co-workers. We can maintain a good relationship by being open-minded, considerate, caring, responsible and accepting. We can also increase our social circle by networking and going to various types of social events to enrich our lives. Most importantly when there is a conflict, open communication is KEY! No one is at fault when there is an argument, it’s normal that we disagree because we are all so different! The objective should be to resolve the conflict, not escalate it! If it’s not resolvable, be patient and let time run it’s course. People who get along with others and are surrounded by supportive family/friends usually have a very high happiness ‘index’.
Long-term exercise: We can certainly get into a good habit of exercising. Become a gym member, join a community sports club, take dance, yoga, pilate lessons. The key is to do something sustainable so pick something you enjoy doing. Don’t binge exercise for a couple of weeks and never touch your runners again. If you can’t make time, once a week is sufficient as long as you can keep up with it. The highlight here is LONG-TERM! The reason is that exercising reduces stress and releases ‘happy’ molecules (dopamine ) and activates the pleasure pathway. It also keeps you healthy, young, and positive!
Gratitude: Feel grateful for what you have and the help you receive from others. There are so many people in our lives that are helping us everyday (family, friends, etc), but we take those for granted and never bother to thank them for what they’ve done. Often times, we think it’s not enough and ask for more. If we don’t get more, then we become upset completely forgetting how much they’ve put in for us already! I think we all have this insatiable nature, but once you bring it forward from the subconscious to the conscious mind, we can flick off that devil sitting on our shoulder and telling us this person has ‘done me wrong’. Besides, I think we should start thanking people that give us a hard time too! Why? Because these people are the ones that will propel you to the next level. If it wasn’t for that oppressive boss you would’ve never forced yourself to learn a new skill and move on to a better job. If it wasn’t for that friend who betrayed you, you would’ve never learned what is a true friend. And if it wasn’t for that strict dance teacher, you would’ve never been able to perform or compete on an international stage winning that 1st place trophy!
Helping others: Helping others increases the feeling of self-worth. Our innate feeling of self-worth doesn’t come from how much we own, but how much we contribute. Some of the most rewarding careers are not the ones that make the most money, but the ones where people are able to help/inspire/motivate others. Volunteerism is an awesome way for people of all ages and background to give back to the community. If you have time, try and involve yourself in an activity that can help other people (long-term makes it even better!).
I hope you find this post useful and informative in some way! Maybe to feel happy, you don’t need to try and change your external surroundings. Maybe get into some good life habits, take on a different perspective or spend more time with family/friends is all that you need…
Thanks for reading!