Everyone wants to be happy, and everyone deserves to be happy. But on a scale to 1-10 (1-Low and 10-High), how happy are you? How satisfied are you with your life?
According to the World Happiness Report 2021, the happiest people in the world live in Finland, followed by Denmark. The report suggests that these two Nordic countries have figured out the secret formula for happiness that so many people yearn for in their personal and professional lives. To determine happiness levels, the report assessed people’s happiness based on six factors: levels of GDP, life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom, and corruption. Finland scored high on all these indicators because if you live there, you get to benefit from a great healthcare system, free education, five weeks of paid holiday every year. Your sick leave is paid and both maternity and paternity leave are guaranteed. With all these needs covered, it should come as no surprise that the Finns are happy indeed. But what about the rest of us? And what does happiness mean?
The Importance of Happiness
In her book The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky defined happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.” Research suggests that happy people are kinder, more helpful, more productive at work, more creative, enjoy better health, and are better able to cope with stress and trauma. Additionally happy people are better able to build and maintain healthy and positive relationships in their personal and professional lives. However, unhappy people find it much more difficult to turn outward and to consider others beyond themselves.
With all the obvious benefits of happiness, why are so many people unhappy? In his book The Happiness Advantage, Shaw Anchor explains that in today’ society, there is a commonly held assumption that if you work hard you will be successful. And if you become successful, you will be happy. But Anchor argued that this formula is backwards, since success does not lead to happiness, instead happiness fuels success. He explains that every time we achieve success in an area of our life, we move the goal post to the next milestone we want to achieve. And if happiness is on the other side of success, happiness becomes an elusive thing that we are constantly in pursuit of- but remains constantly out of reach. He argues that if we reverse this formula, and change the way we think, we are much more likely to achieve happiness.
Anchor also points out that people who are rich aren’t necessarily happier. While money is required for well- being and happiness, it doesn’t guarantee it. Because once you get to a certain amount dollar amount, money doesn’t result in higher levels of happiness. People who pursue only money, nice things or surroundings aren’t happier than people without. Therefore, balance is the formula for happiness
How to Deal With Happiness Blockers
It is important to note that humans are complex beings with a range of emotions, and no one is happy all the time. The absence of happiness isn’t sadness and not being sad doesn’t mean you are happy. In fact, the Happiness Rule states that “50% of our happiness is determined by genetics, 10% by our circumstances and 40% by our internal state of mind.” This means that to a large extent, happiness is a choice and our overall satisfaction with our lives is influenced by how we think and our mindsets. Our happiness isn’t determined by external events, but by how our minds process them. Therefore, just as we focus on the negatives around us, we can change and train our brains into having a more positive mindset. So, are your thoughts getting in the way of you being happy?
According to M. J. Ryan, author of the book Happiness Makeover, each of have particular mental habits that keep us from experiencing the maximum happiness we could feel at any given moment. She points out that some the most common blockers of happiness are:
- Negative self-talk and perceptions of the world around you.
- Feeling discontent with what you have and where you are in life.
- Worrying about things you cannot control
- Regretting decisions and experiences.
- Being envious of others or comparing your life to others.
- Focusing on failures and disappointing outcomes.
- Holding grudges against others or being in conflict.
- Striving for perfectionism.
So, which of these blockers do you struggle with?
As a “recovering hyper-achiever”, I have repeatedly been told by friends that I don’t celebrate my wins long enough. As soon as I have reached a personal goal or professional achievement, I move to tackle the next one. While this works for being ambitious and driven, the dark side is that, this can produce a feeling of discontent, as I don’t always pause to celebrate or savor the moments/achievements despite how hard I worked to get there. As a result, the moments of joy and happiness are short lived or never fully acknowledged or celebrated.
How To Improve Your Happiness and Well-being
I’ll be the first declare that I am no happiness coach, nor do I have happiness all figured out. I am on my own journey to discovering and doing more of what makes me happy to improve my overall well-being. So, while happiness is a subjective and emotional state and your source of happiness might be different from mine, there is consensus that happiness is something we can all cultivate and is not just a benefit to be enjoyed by the rich, successful, or famous.
So here are some suggested tips from Action for Happiness that you can use to improve your happiness and get more satisfaction in your life:
- Do things for others: Caring about others is fundamental to our happiness. Helping other people is not only good for them; it’s good for us too. So, if you want to feel good, do good.
- Connect with people: Our relationships with other people are the most important thing for our happiness. People with strong relationships are happier, healthier and live longer.
- Take care of your body: Our body and mind are connected. Being active makes us happier as well as healthier. It instantly improves our mood and can even lift us out of depression.
- Keep learning: Learning affects our wellbeing in lots of positive ways. It exposes us to new ideas and helps us stay curious and engaged.
- Have goals to look forward to: Feeling good about the future is important for our happiness. We all need goals to motivate us and these have to be challenging enough to excite us, but also achievable.
- Find ways to bounce back: All of us have times of stress, loss, failure or trauma in our lives. How we respond to these events has a big impact on our wellbeing. We often cannot choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we react to what happens.
- Take a positive approach: Positive emotions – like joy, gratitude, contentment, inspiration and pride – don’t just feel good when we experience them.
- Be comfortable with who you are: Nobody’s perfect. But so often we compare a negative view of ourselves with an unrealistic view of other people. Dwelling on our flaws – what we’re not rather than what we’ve got (See previous post)– makes it much harder to be happy.
- Be part of something bigger: People who have meaning and purpose in their lives are happier, feel more in control and get more out of what they do. You might find meaning and from doing a job that makes a difference, your religious or spiritual beliefs, or your family. While the answers vary for each of us, they all involve being connected to something bigger than ourselves.
At the end of the day, it is not what is happening that makes us happy or unhappy. It is how we respond that determines that. Don’t outsource your happiness to other people and external circumstances. Our happiness is our responsibility.
Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!