20 March is International Day of Happiness – a day to be happy, and more importantly, to reflect on what is true happiness.
Happiness is not a goal but a consequence of how we live. It comes from being content with what we have. Today, unfortunately, we are sold a different message – that we will be happy only if we have more money and more of the things money buys. But evidence shows consumption and wealth do not ensure happiness.
Happiness tied to keeping up with fashion, going to the latest restaurants, buying trendy products, or getting a new hairstyle, is superficial and unsatisfying. Studies show that true happiness is not founded on what is normally considered marks of prestige or pleasure. Money does not contribute to lasting happiness. Neither does a good education or youth. Lasting happiness has a lot to do with a sense of purpose and meaning in life.
Getting rich can be enjoyable, but giving it away is fulfilling. American billionaire CEO Thomas Monaghan, founder of Domino’s Pizza, traded materialism for true happiness. Monaghan sold Domino’s Pizza for US$1 billion in 1998 to focus on philanthropy. “This is so much more fulfilling. I had to get rich to see being rich is not important. I was brought up poor, and I was embarrassed by my threadbare clothes and holes in my shoes. I had to get that out of my system,” he said in an interview.
The happiest people surround themselves with family and friends, don’t care about keeping up with the Joneses, lose themselves in daily activities and, most important, forgive easily. They pursue personal growth and intimacy; they judge themselves by their own yardsticks, never against what others do or have (USA Today, 10 December 2002).
Studies of happiness show that the following things all enhance our well-being: a good marriage, the company of friends, rewarding work, sufficient money, a good diet and physical activity, sound sleep, engaging leisure and religious or spiritual belief and practice.
Optimism, trust, self-respect and autonomy also make us happier. Gratitude and kindness lift our spirits. Having clear goals to work towards, a “sense of place” and belonging, a coherent and positive view of the world, and a belief that we are part of something bigger than ourselves also foster well-being.
The scientific equation goes like this: Happiness = P + (5xE) + (3xH). This formula was worked out by psychologists after interviews with more than 1,000 people. “P” stands for Personal Characteristics, including outlook on life, adaptability and resilience. “E” stands for Existence and relates to health, financial stability and friendships. And “H” represents Higher Order needs, and covers self-esteem, expectations, ambitions and sense of humour.
On this International Day of Happiness, let us reflect and resolve to attain true “Happiness For All, Forever” (this year’s campaign theme) for a more meaningful life. As we strive to be happier, remember these 2 simple life truths: More is less, and less is enough.
Psychologists and social scientists reveal Secrets to Our Well-Being. Find out more in this CAP Guide: