What makes us happy?

In the previous post we saw that the link between consumption and happiness really is quite weak. For most developed world citizens therefore, buying more stuff (and thereby causing greater ecological damages) will bring no meaningful gains in happiness. It is therefore quite obvious that there must be other, much more influential factors through which we can influence our happiness.

The most complete set of happiness influences comes from the World Happiness Report and is given below in graphical form. It is clear that there are a great number of factors that have a much larger positive influence on happiness than a 30% increase in income.

Influences on happiness

It is often stated on this blog that the most direct route to happiness is vibrant health, nourishing personal relationships and free creative expression. This assertion is well confirmed by the results in the graph above.

health-promotion-industryThe large influence of health is especially interesting because health not only leads to greater happiness, but also to longer life. Health is therefore the most effective route to that which we all want: a long and happy life. This is why health was covered as the first cornerstone of the One in a Billion action plan.

The relation between happiness and personal relationships is also quite obvious and can come from many sources. These different sources can have a compounding effect, bringing loads of life satisfaction both to yourself and to the other person(s) in the relationship.

the brainCreative expression is a bit more tricky. What I mean by free creative expression is that you have the freedom to add value to society in a manner that you find stimulating and enjoyable. In most cases, this would be manifested as a job that you really enjoy doing.

It should also be noted that the absence of good health, nourishing personal relationships and free creative expression is also a very effective drain on happiness. A person who is sick, alone and unemployed will definitely not be very happy…

Finally, it is worth spending a paragraph or two on the two philosophical approaches to happiness often mentioned in research papers: the hedonic and eudaimonic views. The hedonic view focuses on happiness from pleasurable feelings in the moment or a general positive mood running over a longer period of time, while the eudaimonic view deals more with personal growth and self-actualization.

As always, the answer probably lies somewhere between these two approaches. If you just seek immediate endorphin rushes all the time, it will probably not be long before you run into some longer term health or financial problems that will greatly subtract from your happiness. On the other hand, the all-work-and-no-play approach is no fun either (and quite possibly not psychologically sustainable).

But once again, the general guidelines of vibrant health, nourishing personal relationships and free creative expression combine the best of the hedonic and eudaimonic approaches. All three of these sources will grant you pleasurable feelings in the moment as well as the more consistent satisfaction brought by personal growth. And yes, that is happiness.

Filed under: Mental control – Happiness

8 thoughts on “What makes us happy?”

  1. Reblogged this on Deep Spring Test and commented:
    This is such a wonderfully balanced, thought provoking way of looking at happiness. In the US people are struggling so with this and yet, some are forced to work through what happiness really is because of their financial situations. Great blog!

  2. Ek onderskryf jou menings. Vir die volhoubare voortbestaan van sinvolle lewe op aarde, het jy gelukkige, gesonde, vestandige mense nodig. Op ‘n gegewe tydstip is jy die somtotaal van jou ervarings. As daar vele vreugdevolle ondervindings was, sal jy ‘n meer aangename mens wees. Stem jy saam Schalk? Ek sal graag meer van jou kennis deel.

    1. Hi Suzette,

      Ja, een van die goed wat ek gereeld probeer uitlig is dat ‘n volhoubare leefstyl lei tot ‘n gelukkige en gesonde lewe. Ongelukkig probeer mense probeer geluk vind op heeltemal die verkeerde manier (deur meer en meer goed te koop).

      Oor die ervarings; ja, ek is oortuig daarvan dat “nurture” baie belangriker is as “nature” as dit kom by die ontwikkeling van mense. As iemand die meeste van sy tyd in ‘n gesonde, opbouende omgewing deurbring is die kanse baie goed dat hy ‘n gesonde en opbouende mens sal wees. Hierdie hele blog gaan basies oor hoe mens sulke omgewings kan bou waar ‘n gelukkige, gesonde en volhoubare leefstyl heeltemal outomaties gebeur.

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