Tuesday, October 14, 2008
If we would ask people how happy they are, we will get real answers that are valid, they're not perfect but they're valid and they predict all sorts of real things in their lives. A conversation with a friend the other night make me ponder. He said, there is a difference between living happily and just living. He is in the latter.
Each of us seems to have a happiness set point, a level of happiness to which we tend to return, no matter what our circumstances are.
The old adage that money doesn't buy happiness, still stand true today. Provided our basic needs are met, wealth doesn't have a strong impact on happiness. I think once a certain level of wealth is attained, more money doesn't make a difference. In very poor nations, being richer brings more life satisfaction, but in wealthier nations, even the ridiculously rich are only slightly happier than average.
I noticed though that religious people are happier than those without a faith. It might be because being religious tends to go hand in hand with being part of a social network. Religion also brings a sense of meaning, as well as increased hope for the future.
People who are romantically involved with someone, or those who are married shows to be happier than those who aren't. What's not clear is what causes what. Is romance good for happiness or happiness good for romance? It might just be that happy people are more likely to fall in love or marry.
Married people, me included, cite their children as the biggest source of happiness in their lives. Oh sure, they give us joy and pride, but while we believe we are raising children and providing for them to increase our share of happiness, we are actually doing these things for reasons beyond our ken. We have become notes in a social network that arises and falls by a logic of its own, which is why we continue to work harder, continue to procreate and continue to be surprised when we do not experience all the joy which we so gullibly anticipated.
So what will make one happy? Most of us are searching for something, or sometime in the future when we will finally be happy. We tell ourselves that if we can only get to "that place," then our lives will be perfect. I know the search for happiness is internal and impossible to obtain. But it's up to us to create our own happiness. It's up to us to create a life filled with joy rather than sorrow.
I think we just have to accept that we deserve to be happy. Being happy today means being comfortable where you are in the present, not where you would like to be in the future. It's about being in awe for the opportunity to learn something new each day.
We don't know what our life will bring tomorrow, so we might as well enjoy where we are today.