A Positive Psychologist can help you define your values and work with you to create balance in your life.
What is happiness?
Happiness is often associated with unrealistic, materialistic achievements. For example, the iconic Hollywood impressions of life. Unrealistic and materialistic desires can motivate us toward action but can also set us up for feelings of inadequacy or even jealousy.
According to Positive Psychology, there are two complementary pathways to authentic happiness. The first of these is the ‘engaged life’. This involves being fully involved in your daily life activities, relationships and work. And it you to become happier through engagement. A life coach or therapist can also help to find out what is intrinsically rewarding for you.
The second pathway involves finding meaning and purpose via a connection to a greater cause. In other words, you can find happiness when using your personal strengths in the service of something larger than yourself (such as family, community, etc.). In order to become ‘happier’, spend some time planning pleasurable, engaging and meaningful activities. Help, forgive and be grateful where you can.
IS IT WORTH TRYING TO BE HAPPY?
THE LONG AWAITED ANSWERS ARE HERE!
I often define the ‘happy and fulfilling’ life to my clients as a balance of connection to people, nature and a purpose. The latter may include hobbies, projects, and family roles. For many, connection to a greater purpose or a greater good is also valued (be it community/country/a God, etc). I personally find that travelling helps me really connect to new environments that are beautiful, new, and therefore stimulating. I find that connecting to people from other cultures helps strengthen my sense of identity about where I fit in the world. And I love connecting to and learning from people from other parts of the world and realising our shared values. More importantly, I just love to ‘shoot the breeze’ and have a good time. That’s a great thing that we can quite easily find in common with others.
Which of the following scientifically correlate with happiness?
Very little effect on happiness overall.
In very poor nations, where poverty threatens life, being rich does predict greater wellbeing. American studies indicate that the very poor are lower in happiness, but once a person is just barely comfortable, added money adds little to no happiness. Even in the face of great adversity, poverty has much less effect on life satisfaction than one might expect. On the other end of the scale, becoming materialistic appears counterproductive and can reduce life satisfaction. The fabulously rich Forbes 100 entrants, with average net worth of over 125 million US dollars, are only slightly happier than the average American.
For reasons that remain unclear, marriage is strongly related to happiness, equally for both men and women.
The National Opinion Research Centre in the USA surveyed 35,000 Americans over 30 years, and found that 40 per cent of married people said they were ‘very happy’ while only 24 per cent of unmarried, divorced, separated or widowed people said this. We are not sure entirely why this is: does marriage cause happiness? Are happy people more likely to get married? Or does some other variable (good looks / sociability) cause more happiness and a greater likelihood of marriage? On the flip-side, as expected, unhappy marriages tend to undermine well-being.
Strongly correlated with happiness.
Very happy people lead rich and fulfilling social lives. They spend the most time socialising and the least time alone, and are rated highest on good relationships by themselves and their friends.
Nope, getting older does not reduce happiness.
A study of 60,000 adults from forty nations found that the intensity of positive and negative emotions reduces as we get older. Pleasant affect (i.e. feeling good in the moment) reduces slightly with age, while life satisfaction increases slightly with age.
Barely related to happiness. Your number of doctor and hospital visits does not affect life satisfaction. Even severely ill cancer patients differ only slightly on global life satisfaction. When disabling illness is severe and long-lasting, happiness and life satisfaction do decline, although not nearly as much as you might expect. The happiness of people with five or more chronic health problems does decrease over time. This one is particularly subjective. However, what matters here is our subjective perception of how healthy we are—how well we adapt to adversity and our ability to appraise our health positively, even if we are sick.
Education, Climate, Race, Intelligence, Gender:
Hardly related to happiness at all. Education is a means to slightly higher happiness among those with low income. Intelligence has no affect in either direction. Happiness levels do not vary with climate (with some exceptions, such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) / winter depression). In the USA, African-Americans and Hispanics have lower rates of depression than Caucasians, and no significant difference in happiness. Interestingly, women are both happier and sadder than men, but don’t differ in average levels of happiness.
Religious people are somewhat happier and more satisfied with life than nonreligious people. Reasons posed for this include greater social support, and/or hope for the future and meaning in life.
Of course, we are talking about trends and correlations here involving large numbers of people. The extent to which you value these things will determine how much affect they have on you. This is just one of the many approaches that psychologists can use to help. Get in contact with us here at The Psych Professionals to get the balance right in your life.
If you would like to know more about how Richard or Positive Psychology can help you, please contact our Loganholme Practice on 07 3801 1772.
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