True happiness is enjoying your own company and living in peace and harmony with your body, mind and soul. True happiness is state of mind constantly being in love with yourself. For being truly happy you neither need other people nor materialistic things. “Happiness is the consequence of personal effort.
Happiness is not the result of bouncing from one joy to the next; researchers find that achieving happiness typically involves times of considerable discomfort. Money is important to happiness, but only to a certain point. Money buys freedom from worry about the basics in life—housing, food, and clothing. Genetic makeup, life circumstances, achievements, marital status, social relationships, even your neighbors—all influence how happy you are. Or can be.
So do individual ways of thinking and expressing feelings. Research shows that much of happiness is under personal control. Regularly indulging in small pleasures, getting absorbed in challenging activities, setting and meeting goals, maintaining close social ties, and finding purpose beyond oneself all increase life satisfaction.
What Is Happiness?
Ah, happiness, that elusive state. Philosophers, theologians, psychologists, and even economists have long sought to define it, and since the 1990s, a whole branch of psychology—positive psychology—has been dedicated to pinning it down and propagating it. More than simply positive mood, happiness is a state of well-being that encompasses living a good life—that is, with a sense of meaning and deep satisfaction.
A growing body of research also suggests that happiness can improve your physical health. Feelings of positivity and contentment seem to benefit cardiovascular health, the immune system, inflammation levels, and blood pressure, among other things. Happiness has even been linked to a longer lifespan—providing more years to continue striving for fulfillment.
Attaining happiness is a global pursuit. Researchers find that people from every corner of the world rate happiness more important than other desirable personal outcomes, such as having a meaningful life, becoming rich, and getting into heaven.
Most of us probably don’t believe we need a formal definition of happiness; we know it when we feel it, and we often use the term to describe a range of positive emotions, including joy, pride, contentment, and gratitude.
But to understand the causes and effects of happiness, researchers first need to define it. Many of them use the term interchangeably with “subjective well-being,” which they measure by simply asking people to report how satisfied they feel with their own lives and how much positive and negative emotion they’re experiencing.
Experts elaborates, describing happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”
That definition resonates with us here at Greater Good: It captures the fleeting positive emotions that come with happiness, along with a deeper sense of meaning and purpose in life—and suggests how these emotions and sense of meaning reinforce one another.
Why Practice It?
In addition to making us feel good, studies have found that happiness actually improves other aspects of our lives. Here is an overview of some of the good stuff that research has linked to happiness.
- Happiness is good for our health: Happy people are less likely to get sick, and they live longer.
- Happiness is good for our relationships: Happy people are more likely to get married and have fulfilling marriages, and they have more friends.
- Happy people make more money and are more productive at work.
- Happy people are more generous.
- Happy people cope better with stress and trauma.
- Happy people are more creative and are better able to see the big picture.
How Do I Cultivate It?
Based on research, experts concluded that roughly 50 percent of happiness is determined by our genes and 10 percent by our life circumstance, but 40 percent depends on our daily activities. Here are some specific, science-based activities for cultivating happiness:
- Awe Narrative: Recall and describe a time when you experienced awe.
- Best Possible Self: Imagine your life going as well as it possibly could, then write about this best possible future.
- Best Possible Self for Relationships: Imagine your relationship going as well as it possibly could.
- Mental Subtraction of Positive Events: Visualize what your life would be like without the good things you have.
- Meaningful Photos and Images: Photograph, then write about, things that are meaningful to you.
- Gift of Time: Invest in your relationships by spending quality time with people you care about.
- Time Capsule: Create a collection of positive experiences to surprise your future self.
And here are some of the keys to happiness researchers have identified.
- Build relationships: Perhaps the dominant finding from happiness research is that social connections are key to happiness. Studies show that close relationships, including romantic relationships, are especially important, suggesting we should make time for those closest to us—people in whom we can confide and who’ll support us when we’re down.
- Pursue happiness indirectly: Rather than constantly monitoring your emotions and striving to feel better, try to organize your daily life around activities that are naturally enjoyable—including some of the ones below. Practice savoring, the art of maintaining and deepening positive feelings by becoming more aware of them. Research suggests that our ability to savor impacts how much of a mood boost we get from happy events.
- Give thanks: Research revealed the power of simply counting our blessings on a regular basis. People who keep “gratitude journals” feel more optimism and greater satisfaction with their lives. And research shows that writing a “gratitude letter” to someone you’ve never properly thanked brings a major boost of happiness.
- Practice kindness: Research finds that people report greater happiness when they spend money on others than when they spend it on themselves, even though they initially think the opposite would be true. Similarly, neuroscience research shows that when we do nice things for others, our brains light up in areas associated with pleasure and reward.
- Give up grudges: Groundbreaking studies show that when we forgive those who have wronged us, we feel better about ourselves, experience more positive emotions, and feel closer to others.
- Get physical: Exercise isn’t just good for our bodies, it’s good for our minds. Studies show that regular physical activity increases happiness and self-esteem, reduces anxiety and stress, and can even lift symptoms of depression. “Exercise may very well be the most effective instant happiness booster of all activities,” writes in The How of Happiness.
- Spend time in nature: People who are more connected to nature tend to experience more positive emotions, vitality, and life satisfaction.
- Get rest: Research has consistently linked lower sleep to lower happiness. What’s more, a study of more than 900 women, led by Nobel Prize-winning psychologist found that getting just one more hour of sleep each night might have a greater effect on happiness than a $60,000 raise.
- Pay attention: Studies show that people who practice mindfulness—the moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and external circumstances—not only have stronger immune systems but are more likely to be happy and enjoy greater life satisfaction, and they are less likely to be hostile or anxious. Pioneering research found that a basic eight-week mindfulness training program can significantly improve our physical and psychological well-being. Spend money in the right ways by buying social experiences, giving to others, and expressing your identity.
- But don’t focus on material wealth: After our basic needs our met, research suggests, more money doesn’t bring us more happiness—in fact, a study that happiness rose with their income only until they’d made roughly $75,000; after that, their happiness plateaued. And research found that in the long run, countries don’t become happier as they become wealthier. Perhaps that’s why, in general, people who prioritize material things over other values are much less happy, and comparing ourselves with people who have more is a particular source of unhappiness. It also suggests why more egalitarian countries consistently rank among the happiest in the world.
- Find the right fit: All happiness-boosting activities don’t work equally well for everyone. Understanding yourself better can help you choose habits that align with your personality, your situation, and your goals.
What Are the Pitfalls and Limitations of Happiness?
Pursuing happiness isn’t always so straightforward. Paradoxically, it may require making room for negative emotions:
- High emodiversity—experiencing many positive and negative emotions—is linked to less depression, more than high levels of positive emotion alone.
- It’s better for our overall happiness and mood to feel emotions like anger, sadness, and disgust at appropriate times—and not to fake a smile.
- Experiencing major adversity can actually help us better savor the present moment.
This may explain some recent findings suggesting that “extreme” levels of happiness are detrimental:
- Moderately happy people go on to have higher income, academic achievement, and job satisfaction than very happy people, perhaps because they’re more motivated to improve.
- Intense or manic levels of happiness may not afford us the same creativity boost and cognitive flexibility that happiness typically does.
When we pursue happiness the wrong way—obsessively seeking to feel good all the time, or not emphasizing social relationships—we’re less likely to achieve happiness, or its benefits. #KhabarLive