What is happiness?
It’s a question that I’ve been thinking a lot about recently.
I’m not an unhappy person (most of the time), but as I’ve gotten older, or just had more life experiences, it’s become clear that many things that I thought would make me happy, don’t.
When I was in my early 20’s I had this goal of making X amount of money by the time I was 25. It was an ambitious goal that I thought would make me happy.
I eventually achieved making X amount of money (not by the age of 25), and as you may have guessed, it didn’t miraculously make me the happiest person on the block.
People often associate being happy with money, but I’m more convinced than ever that money isn’t what makes most of us happy.
I’m not going to pretend that having a few extra bucks doesn’t make life easier, but there’s a big difference between something being easier and happiness.
One thing I’ve learned that does make me happy is having experiences with friends and family. Things such as vacations are great and can provide amazing memories, but so can flying around a go kart track laughing like a 12-year old as you race friends and/or family (true story).
What Makes Us Happy?
An article on PBS.org states the following about happiness,
“Researchers have explored three basic sources of happiness: genetics, including temperament and personality; life circumstances, such as wealth and health; and our own choices.”
When reading that I really honed in on “circumstances” and “choices.” For me, these two things are tied directly to what makes having experiences with friends and family so important.
The article also cites that as social scientists gather more data we can better understand who is or isn’t happy. A couple key things:
- People with strong ties to families and friends are consistently happier than those without social ties.
- People with enough money to make ends meet are happier than people who are poor, but beyond that more money doesn’t make much difference.
- Some personality traits tend to go along with happiness. People who are optimistic, have high self-esteem, and are extroverted are more likely to describe themselves as happy.
The Happiness Equation
I’m not a social scientist, a doctor or any of that jazz, but I’d like to share what I’m calling the Happiness Equation with you.
Goal Achievement + Goal Emotional Feeling = X / 2 = Happiness Score.
Let me give a real life example. And I’ll use numbers to help us develop a score for the example.
You’re on a mission to lose weight. You’re going to workout like crazy and eat extremely healthy. Great. But does that give you a high Happiness Score. Let’s do some math based on goals.
You hit your goal of working out four days a week. Assign that with a score of 100.
You hit your goal of eating healthy for each meal of the day, yet you’re miserable on a day to day basis because you aren’t getting enough food and/or you’re just annoyed because you aren’t eating some or any of what you want to eat. Sounds like a total downer. Assign that with a score of 50.
Now average your score. 100 + 50 = 150 / 2 = a happiness score of 75. Imagine if you allowed yourself to cheat and have that slice of pizza. You may have bumped the 50 up to a 75 and totally changed your score.
This is a silly example, but I’ve found that there’s some merit to it as I’ve tried to lose a few pounds here and there and experimented with various workout and eating regimens. Some definitely made me more miserable than others.
This is Happiness
Chasing the meaning of happiness is something that researchers have done for a very long time and will continue to do. Findings will be interpreted 14 different ways and many articles will be written.
What I can tell you, is that the photo below of my son and me walking on the beach is pure happiness.
It’s as if no one else around us existed and my Happiness Score for this particular moment was a 100.
We aren’t going to fully answer the question of “what is happiness” in this post, or any other post, but for now I’ll just appreciate the walk down the beach holding my sons hand. It makes my happiness bank feel pretty darn full.
What makes you happy? It’s something to really think about.