Are You Happy?
Over the last 3 years, I consumed numerous articles, books and videos on Happiness. It has become a big deal:
In September 2013, 1000 books about happiness came out on Amazon in that month alone. Over 5,000 motivation speakers are earning collectively $1 billion (reference):
> Why has Happiness become so important in our lives?
The western world has now achieved a level of comfort that let us explore happiness., assisted by research (neuroscience, sociology…). Also, media is helping it to snowball.
Last week, Stanford University gathered 5 experts on happiness to host a panel discussion (1:28:33 video, link below), 6 themes stood out:
1) Are certain people hardwired for happiness?
We all have different traits: There are genetic factors, our upbringing also plays a huge role.
Events make happiness fluctuate: Our habits, what you do in your day to day life: exercise, meditate, focus on relationships;
2) How does Stress affect our daily lives?
Stress can be positive: you should see it as a spectrum of possibilities
In stressful / life threatening situations (e.g. having advanced cancer), mortality might change your focus on what is truly important for you: “what am I on earth for?”
Focusing your time on a passion or “calling” makes you a lot happier than following what’s on others’ calendars: Many people are doing something for someone else, such as getting a good job for parents/society. Plenty of people have a job that looks good but feels bad.
3) How is a Happy life different than a Meaningful life?
Happy & Meaningful are interlinked and positively correlated:
4) Do we set the happiness bar too high?
In the West, the norm is to show happiness and hide unhappiness: When people are in groups, it is desirable to show you are happy.
Yet you can’t be happy at all times: negative emotions also have their value (anger, sadness…) They are only a problem when they become chronic.
5) How does money affect happiness?
Money is related to happiness, yet the correlation is not as big as we think:
As long as you cover your basic needs, extra money doesn’t provide such a marginal difference for happiness, it’s called Easterlin Paradox.
Money doesn’t make you happy: how you spend it does. Such as spending on experiences, charity, personal growth, community, traveling is different than buying an object. Consider those two experiences:
Experience 1: Scientists asked people about their buying practices: “Would you engage in this experience if you could tell no one about it ?” In other words, are you experimenting/buying things for yourself, or as a social trophy? (research here)
Experience 2: When asking people “Say we give you $100, how would you spent it?”: Those spending money on an experience report higher happiness than those spending money on an object. (research here)
“Bertrand Russell used to say, ‘Beggars do not envy millionaires, though of course they will envy other beggars who are more successful‘” says psychologist Cameron Anderson
6) What is the Impact of technology on happiness?
– For shy people, or with rare interest/condition, social media helps you connect with peers you couldn’t reach out to any other way.
– If you are stressed: the most powerful buffer for stress is genuine social support. People that truly care for you, Social support is #1.
– If you share goals meaningful to you and others endorse/support them, technology can help you build something larger than yourself
– In the Time poll, 60% of respondents said they do not feel better about themselves after spending time on social media.
– Social Media can be a distraction from the moment and create FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), it’s crazy to see most of Gen-Yers being affected by this
– Technology lacks of interpersonal connection, keeps you from being empathic: Face to Face communication is always best!
BONUS: Most important ingredients for a happy life
Meaning: Think about how you are spending your time, and what meaning it has for you
Support system: Do you feel that your actions are likely to be meaningful for people around you
Sleep is key to restore and maintain health: our brain, mind and body get recharged.
Having a Sense of Control in your life: Experiencing Personal Growth, engage in new experiences, start new relationships.
Gratitude: You feel it when you appreciate what you have, feel humble and connected. Try it by writing gratitude letters to those who helped you. Appreciating what you have is great to combat adaptation and steering away from wanting more what you don’t have.
Increase meaningfulness: Authenticity/genuineness is key, the more you have it, the higher probability for good things to happen. It is important to recognize when you are going through tough time and reach out for help, it’s equally important to help others when they need it.
If you like this, share the happiness!