What We Think Makes Us Happy vs. What Actually Makes Us HappyReading Time: 3 minutes
Choosing our own way and living on our own terms means we have the choice to fill our lives with meaning and happiness.
However, the things we believe will make us happy often don’t actually provide us with long-term, sustainable happiness.
We believe that things such as a lot of money, material things and the perfect body will make us happy. And they will, to some extent. Money really can buy a certain level of happiness. But more to the point, money provides greater opportunity for us to live the life we desire.
Material things bring us some happiness too, though it’s often short lived. They offer us benefits such as the entertainment we receive through our televisions and the freedom we experience while traveling in our vehicles.
The perfect body is a subjective measure and aiming for physical perfection is a losing battle. No matter how good we look and how hard we work, we’ll always find something about ourselves we could improve. Striving for a healthy body that inspires inner confidence is a more achievable and positive objective.
What actually makes us sustainably happy?
But if money, material things and the perfect body aren’t enough to make us happy long term, what is?
It’s a pursuit we begin from a young age. As John Lennon once shared: “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
According to Yale University’s “The Science of Well-Being” course, the keys to our happiness are: kindness, social connection, time affluence, mindfulness and healthy practices.
Expressing kindness to others has been directly linked to our happiness. So have other healthy habits including meditation, regular exercise and regulated sleep of seven hours or more each night. Forming deep, meaningful connections with the most important people in our lives is also important. As is making an effort to connect with more people in general. Additionally, people who have more time affluence are often happier than people with more money influence. In other words, people tend to value their time more than their money when it comes to their happiness.
How do we become happier?
So, how do you go about doing these things that will make you truly happy? Some can be implemented today, such as being kind to others, interacting with people more, exercising, meditating and getting enough sleep.
Learning your top character strengths – your greatest assets to the world – and using them often will also lead to happiness. As will investing in experiences over material things, savoring joyous moments as they are happening, and expressing gratitude directly to others. Keeping a daily or weekly gratitude list of the people, places, events and things for which you are grateful is also beneficial.
Considering each of these things through the context of your personal values can help you naturally implement them into your life. As Freya Stark, the late Italian explorer and travel writer, once remarked: “There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do.”
You can set yourself up for success by having a growth mindset. That is the belief that we have the ability learn, grow and enhance our knowledge base. Additional tips include:
- Creating situational support so that you are surrounded by people and an environment that foster your happiness
- Setting goals for yourself and working toward them. During the goal-setting process, determine the challenges you may face while working to achieve your goals. That way you can develop plans to overcome them.
Ultimately, author Carrie Jones may have best summed up the path to happiness: “The secret of happiness is freedom, the secret of freedom is courage.”
When are you at your happiest? Share your thoughts in the comments.