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Happiness, is it all it's cracked up to be?

Updated: Mar 14, 2020

Factors Underlying Happiness and Well-being*

Happiness is something everybody wants, but not everyone can get. Happiness is elusive to people who live lives where stress almost acts as a family member in terms of how prominent it is in someone's life. Other people who live lives with more happiness and healthy relationships are more likely to be happier and healthier throughout the duration of their lives.

The data suggest that factors that underlie happiness and well-being are the extent to which we are in good, trusting relationships, and the degree to which we are socially connected and focus our resources on helping others. One example from the Harvard Study is that loneliness is toxic, that brain functioning declines sooner and people live shorter lives than those who are not lonely.

The strongest indicators of long-term happiness were how satisfied people were in their relationships, and renewing strong relationship over time, i.e. replacing workmates with new friends to share activities in retirement. Living in conflict is bad for our health, while having good relationships is protective. Being in a secure relationship where we feel can count on the other person in times of trouble, means memory stays sharper.

Money doesn’t buy or lead to happiness for a multitude of reasons. First, money leads to more feelings of entitlement and self-interest. Money can you buy you materialistic things which can only give you happiness for short bursts of time. Being rich can also make you feel more entitled and inclined to disrespect rules. Money doesn’t lead to happiness if we spend it on ourselves, but in experiments where people were asked to spend it on others, there was a measurable increase in happiness, and it occurred for both small amounts as well as large amounts of giving. People may believe that money leads to happiness because they see happiness in material terms, as a means of gaining the freedom to do whatever they want. But the science says that using money to focus on others, through generosity and compassion, is most beneficial. This is true for individuals as well as teams, which proved to be more productive and competitive when members spent money on each other or the team as a whole.

Social media can play various roles in one's happiness. Things you see on social media aren’t always the most upbeat and outgoing. Sometimes they’re very sad things that make you either angry at the world or jealous of someone in particular, maybe a friend of yours who posts something at a place you wish you were at, or buys a new pair of clothes you wish you could wear and look as good in. Social media can also corrupt your mind in certain instances by creating false rumors about certain things and people.

Happiness can be promoted by making people realize that happiness comes from generosity toward others, regardless of the level of economic attainment. This can be accomplished through small psychological interventions to help people understand that the focus on others, the focus on conquering inequity, is central to human happiness. Such interventions have been found to alter the effects of entitlement among those who have wealth (who are privileged players in a rigged game, according to one of the experiments).

Happiness is a state of being that can actually be encouraged by a conscious effort of mind training. To understand the effect of compassion and openness to experience, extensive studies have been conducted on brain plasticity, and that show repeated efforts can affect the structure of the brain by reinforcing synaptic connections underlying what is being practiced.

*Post based on:


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