It’s no secret that our society glorifies happiness. But what does being happy mean? And how do we know we are happy? Attempting to answer these existential questions can begin to weigh on a person throughout their lifetime.
In the Driver’s Seat
While chasing happiness is personal by its very nature, experts have identified common themes in the pursuit. Research indicates that long-term happiness stems from feeling in control of our destinies. Wealth, health, and relationships aside, the happiest people share a belief that they’re in the driver’s seat of their life.
The disconnect between our ideal path and reality is what breeds discontent. When our lives seem to be out of balance with our values and goals, our happiness suffers. Such priorities can change as we move through life.
For example, at 30 we might dream of more money, a nicer house, or a higher-paying job. While at age 60, we might yearn for more family time and better health.
Evaluate and Make Changes
Regardless of age, we can all benefit from taking a step back to evaluate our lives. To determine how to be happy, it’s essential to check in regularly and ask yourself what's truly important to you. From what things do you derive fulfillment and, ultimately, happiness?
It’s said that sometimes the little things in life prove to be the big things. Leisure activities, hobbies, and time with loved ones rank high on many people’s lists. While we all lead busy lives, it’s important to take time each day for such pleasures. They are key to our mental health.
Happiness Supports Healthiness
Speaking of health, experts have identified a feedback loop between happiness and wellbeing. In other words, happiness begets health, and health begets happiness. Happy people tend to take better care of themselves than their depressed peers. For example, studies show that happier people are more likely to eat a balanced diet and move regularly.
While happy people are not immune to life’s stressors, they seem to be more adept at handling them. When encountering tense situations, happy people often produce less of the stress hormone cortisol. This fight-or-flight hormone can mess with our sleep and mood and increase the risks for diabetes and high blood pressure, all of which can shorten our lifespan.
And when it comes to longevity, even when facing a life-threatening condition, happy people can teach us a lesson or two about attitude. According to Healthline, a review of 70 studies explored the role outlook can play in both healthy people and those with a pre-existing health condition, such as heart or kidney disease. “Higher positive well-being was found to have a favorable effect on survival, reducing the risk of death by 18% in healthy people and by 2% in those with pre-existing disease,” the article states.
It’s undeniable that health and happiness are interconnected. Eating right, exercising, practicing gratitude, and getting a good night’s rest are just a few ways to take control of our headspace.
Before you move onto your next read, take the challenge and ask yourself: what’s one thing you can do this week or month to ensure the days ahead are just a little happier?