We all want to be happy. Yet for some of us happiness can be a rather vague and elusive thing. It can have different meaning for different people. Here are three aspects of happiness considered by psychologist:
The Pleasant Life
Doing all the things that make you happy to experience positive emotions such as eating your fave food, shopping, engaging in hobbies, going on a holiday, etc.
The Engaged Life
Doing what you do best and hanging out with all the people that you like and who likes you back. To achieve this, you’ll need to know what you are best at or rather your signature strengths, and using your best strengths in all the different areas of your life, at work, relationships and leisure.
The Meaningful Life
This is the positive feeling and happiness that you attain when you do the things that truly matter deep in your heart, and things that have lasting value and worth. These are activities that may require the use of your best strengths for the good of other people. Such activity would fill you with fulfillment and satisfaction in life.
So which of the above 3 types of happiness would really make you happy?
What makes Millionaires’ happy?
You’ve heard Travie McCoy sing ‘’I wanna be a billionaire so freakin bad, Buy all the things I never had’’. Would having all the material comforts really give us the happiness that we seek for?
In a research study on the happiness of millionaires, it is found that millionaires have greater life satisfaction than the general population. That’s no big surprise. But are they happier because they spend all their time indulging in material things? The study surprising unveiled that millionaires spent their time in remarkably similar ways to the general population but they engage in more active leisure rather than passive leisure. The Active Leisure that millionaires engage in include hobbies, praying, volunteering and exercising. Passive Leisure which most of the general public engage in include relaxing, watching TV and doing nothing. Studies have also shown that spending time and money in helping other people can increase your happiness (Dunn, Aknin, & Norton, 2014). So, just maybe, ‘buying all the things you never had’ may not really make you as happy as you would like.
Time use by Millionaires and Public, *Image from Social Psychological and Personality Science.
Well known psychologist, Martin Seligman, in his book ‘Authentic Happiness’ states that true happiness or ‘Eudemonia’, can only be attained through activity that has a noble purpose. If we focus outside ourselves and use our signature strengths to benefit others, we will reach higher levels of authentic happiness.
Some psychologist prefer to use the term ‘Well Being’ rather than the term happiness to measure a person’s satisfaction in life. Research has shown that the pursuit of psychological well-being can help a person not only feel more satisfied with life but also influences how long and well a person lives. Research studies in health and diseases (Epidemiology) has shown that having a purpose in life can reduce the risk for many diseases including Alzheima’s, stroke and heart disease. People with a greater sense of well-being also tend to succumb less to negative emotions as studies have shown that the amygdala(the emotional part of the brain), is less reactive when faced with unfavorable circumstances.
Dr Carol Ryff, found that Psychological well-being can be measured and developed. Here are the 6 aspects that would help you to attain and maintain the feelings of positive well-being and happiness.
Purpose in Life
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The perils of chasing after happiness.
There are always ups and downs in life, and at times we may experience less positive emotions then in other times. To be human means we will experience a range of emotions like sadness, anger and fear along with the positive emotions of joy and pleasure. Sometimes, extreme avoidance of negative emotions in itself can create more duress and stress in your life. What we can do is to make room for negative emotions as well as the positive ones and to find ways to ensure that the negative ones do not rule our lives.
As for being a billionaire, it may be a pipe dream for most us. But that doesn’t mean we cannot live a life that is meaningful and satisfying. Try this mantra for size:
Reference: Ryff, C.D, Keyes, C.L.M. (1995), The Structure of Psychological Well-Being Revisited, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 69, No. 4,719-727 Ryff, C. D. (1989). Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 1069-1081 *Smeets.P, Whillans. A, Bekkers.R, and Norton.M, (2019), Time Use and Happiness of Millionaires: Evidence From the Netherlands, Social Psychological and Personality Science 1-13, Sage.com, DOI: 10.1177/1948550619854751 Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic happiness: Using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment. New York: Free Press Feature image by Rawpixel.com