Many things people consider essential frequently are relegated to being just backdrops of life, including love and especially happiness. They will occur at the proper times because that is the way we are constructed. I recently had a good friend tell me, “I have never been a happy person. That is just the way I am.” Well, each of us determines the way we are. Some of the unhappiest people I ever met were those who believed life must be fair. Life works on a set of logical principles we define as physics, chemistry, economics, and many other categories, not what we believe is deserved. Matthew says, “Rain falls on the good and bad.” Ergo: do the best you can with the hand you are dealt.
Happiness is one of the most significant driving forces of human nature, barely behind self-preservation. It is right up there with unalienable rights of life and liberty in the Declaration of Independence. As we all know, we have a right to pursue happiness, so it is crucial we know how.
Happiness is a mental status that is created from an emotion generated from living a good life. So, happiness is secondary to other things that we do to promote a “good life.”
The famous German Philosopher Hegel defined true happiness as a reward you give yourself from attaining a desire. Most of our efforts are aimed at producing happiness when our goals are reached. We want to be liked, productive, successful, and many other positive goals, and we go to great lengths to achieve those ends.
Three aspects of subjective wellbeing can be distinguished:
- Evaluative wellbeing (or life satisfaction)
- Hedonic wellbeing (transient feelings of happiness, pleasure)
- Eudemonic wellbeing (sense of purpose and meaning in life)
In essence, the three represent evaluations of past, present, and future statuses.
We can find happiness where it resides, in the positive quality of our thoughts about people and events. Remember that every cloud, even rainclouds have silver linings. Look for the silver linings.
My personal takeaway observation for the happiness bank is when I have considered the future, nothing I have thought would turn out bad turned out as bad as I felt it might be. And most everything I believed would be good turned out to be better than I thought. Again, look for the silver linings.
Pedometers were used to measure physical activity in older adults. Their measured physical activity correlated with their “Satisfaction with Life”. The Netherlands Twin Study has some more substantial evidence because they studied some 8,000 subjects of genetic pairs, and the level of life satisfaction correlated with the activity levels. Want to be happier? Start walking.
Religion has a role in making people happier. Religiosity has a protective effect in warding off depression by increasing resilience. Religion seems a buffer against difficulties severe enough to restrict happiness.
A further description is in my book “Live Better While You Age.”