In pursuit of happiness

Is it possible to be truly, deliriously happy?

It’s a mood state that most of us yearn for. But it’s a bit like trying to bottle sunshine, it’s there, but it’s elusive.

My ponderings about happiness were ignited by London School of Economics new research study, in which 50,000 people using their smartphone, recorded what makes them happy. Sex topped the list, but I was surprised to see, going to the theatre, exhibitions, and museums in the top five. Unsurprisingly being ill, and ‘work’ made people feel the most unhappy. The LSE results, seem to suggest that connecting with other people, and stepping outside the everyday routine makes us feel good.

Eminent social scientist Daniel Gilbert has done extensive research on this area and proposes that the level of happiness you feel, relates to how you perceive it. So stripping his research down to the basics; those of us who accept what we have and view it positively, are more likely to reach a state of happiness. Most of us have high expectations about what can make us happy. We often fall into the fallacy of expecting positive events to make us much happier than they actually do, and equally we expect negative events to make us unhappier than they actually do.

His research also found the best predictor of happiness is human relationships and the quality of connections we make with family and friends. Gilbert’s research confirms LSE findings that people tend to take more pleasure from life experiences than material things.

But what specifically makes you happy? Can you buy it, create it, or grow it?

Well, the old saying that money can’t buy you happiness seems to be true. Research amongst lottery winners found that once the initial euphoria of winning subsides, their happiness levels go back to levels before their windfall. However there is a caveat to this; as research has also consistently shown that developed countries rate themselves as happier than poorer countries and people who perceive themselves as comfortable financially, are happier than those on the poverty line.

So money does matter; if you have money, have more freedom and choices. However, there is a law of diminishing returns; so having a lot of money doesn't make you exponentially happier.

So to end on a slightly ‘sugary’ note:
“Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears.”- John Lennon

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