Yes, now you have that song stuck in your head, you’re welcome. As I hum the song, I can’t help but to smile and to reflect on things that make me happy. To give the definition of happiness may seem silly, since most of us understand what it is, but according to positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky, happiness is “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.” Now that we all have the same definition we can talk about ways to experience happiness.
The title of this blog, and the song itself, makes it seem like all you need to do is just cheer up and forget all your troubles. I am in no way implying that things are that easy. In fact, for some people with mental health issues, like depression, many of the ideas in this blog may seem impossible. If you or someone you know has a mental health issue, it is imperative that they receive professional help, so that they might achieve overall health and wellness, including happiness.
I think of myself as a happy person. One fact about happiness that surprised me is that older people are happier than younger people. Happiness in relationship to age is a U-shaped curve–lots of happiness when people are younger, a little less happy during middle age, and back to lots of happiness for older adults. Though declining health in older age may alter the U shape for some people, research suggests that older people are happier than their middle aged counterparts. Because I am in the age group that is at the bottom of the happiness curve, I am glad to learn that there is a good chance that I can be event happier in the coming years.
The evolutionary basis for happiness was not something I had considered. The need to get along with those in our group in order to survive and pass along our genes meant we had to be cooperative with and attractive to those within our group. If we were not happy enough, we would not be viewed as desirable. So even when we weren’t happy, we might pretend in order to attract a mate. We did not need to get along with other groups, which helps explain why people from different groups have not necessarily been agreeable throughout history.
This is not to say that we must be happy ALL the time! In fact, we need to have moments when we experience negative emotions in order to more fully appreciate what makes us happy. Being able to create growth and meaning out of both positive and negative events is the true meaning of “happiness.”However, happy people do have some advantages over people who may be less happy counterparts. According to Lyubomirsky, these are some of the benefits for happy people:
- Happiness is good for our health: Happy people are less likely to get sick, and they live longer.
- Happiness is good for our relationships: Happy people are more likely to get married and have fulfilling marriages, and they have more friends.
- Happy people make more money and are more productive at work.
- Happy people are more generous
- Happy people cope better with stress and trauma.
- Happy people are more creative and are better able to see the big picture.
You can find out how to “buy” health and happiness in this blog about money and happiness which I wrote a couple months ago. I would also like to hear how you find or make your happiness, so please leave a comment or send me an email.