There is a popular commercial on the airwaves right now for a job search site. A father has just tucked his son into bed, and before he leaves the room, the son asks, “Daddy, what is it like to work?”
And what follows always makes me laugh until I realize the dad is saying exactly how I have felt for most of my working life.
The father goes on to say about getting a job, and then you hate that job, and so you quit and get another job, and in his monotone voice about 12 seconds in he says a line, “and a part of you withers away until you don’t even feel like a person anymore, and so you do it again, and again, and again, and…” you get my drift?
“It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.” – Charles Spurgeon
It’s this repetitive monotone of unhappiness that makes us realize this is very sad. Realistically, it’s a very sad commentary on life as most of us know it.
Is work the variable measurement for what makes you happy?
Many might view our happiness and joy through our work. And, we’ve lost the idea that we will ever be happy. We get to say, “I don’t know what makes me happy anymore.”
What is Happiness, Anyway?
Courtney Ackerman placed an in-depth study at Positive Psychology on what is happiness, the meaning of happiness, and it’s etymology. It’s a fantastic article and worth reading.
I won’t go that in-depth because we want to find out how you can do what makes YOU happy.
Let’s name a few things that bring us happiness:
- Unexpected blessings
- Kind gestures
- Going to that job you enjoy
- Your children
- Your significant other
- Being a vegetable on a couch (okay, I just placed that here to see if you’re reading).
Happiness is not easily defined. The actual beginnings of the word itself come from the word for “luck.”
What does that mean? Is happiness just a chance occurrence? Are some just happy and some just aren’t? It’s not as easy as asking ‘does it make you happy?’
Well, genetics do play a small part in how happy we are, but most of our happiness comes from others and from how we view ourselves.
So, two things help us realize what makes us happy, others and self.
Measurements for Happiness
Dr Mark Holder, Ph.D., a.k.a., the Happiness Doctor placed an article on Psychology Today on how to measure happiness.
In that article, Dr Holder discusses the five approaches researchers used to measure happiness.
- Implicit Measures
- Other Reports
- Self Report
On Dr Holder’s study, they did an experiment, placing a coin in a machine for someone to find. When they found it, they felt happier.
Basically, unexpected positive things in a life will make you register “happy.” There is that luck thing again.
Some call this: feeling blessed, thankful, having a good day.
But again, this isn’t what makes you happy for any length of time. Is happiness fleeting?
Social Media and Happiness
Obviously, in this day and age when people tend to be buried in the latest news on Facebook or the latest tweet, and other social media outlets, it takes our eyes off others and onto this small screen.
Studies have shown the average American and Canadian spend 54 hours plugged into some technological device. That’s an awful lot of time.
The Guardian wrote an article on the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen about a study conducted with 1,095 participants. Half had their phones taken away, and the other half were allowed to keep plugged in.
The results were that those who were off FB and other social media outlets had 55% lower stress levels.
It would seem comparing yourself to your peers can be very stressful. They were also more productive, calmer, and enjoyed time with family and friends on a more personal level. Does it make you happy?
Let’s just say they were… happier.
There is a strong correlation in that when people feel less stressed, they are happier.
Well, of course. Stress is related to depression and anxiety. If you no longer have stress pounding at your back, then you will be happier. Sometimes it’s not to do what makes you happy but to remove what hinders you.
Our daily concerns affect our daily happy meter:
- Can I pay my bills?
- Health issues.
- Climate change.
- My job.
- Food and housing.
- Our children’s future.
- My future.
These are all plaguing us at any given time. This stress will take away your happiness.
Friends, Family and Interaction with Others
The founder of positive psychology, Dr Chris Peterson, is known for the statement, “Other people matter – period.”
The Positivity Project listed five main principles to have a more positive, and thus happier, life.
1. Do you recognize the good in other people?
It is human nature to look at weaknesses and flaws in other people. To be judge and jury comes much more easily than the benefit of the doubt. And so, how do you look at others?
2. You realize everything you say and do affects others.
I used to tell my kids, “The best gift you can give to another is a smile. It’s free. It’s easily done. And, you don’t really know if that’s maybe the one thing that might uplift them through their day.”
3. Do you support others when they struggle?
This is actually a way to show love to others that you know, that matter, and to say, “I care.”
4. Cheering people on when they succeed.
It’s being authentically happy for others when they succeed, rather than jealous. This will make you happy.
5. Are you present when giving people your attention?
This is possibly one of the most difficult with our need to check our recent Twitter or Facebook comment.
This means giving your attention “completely” to others while with them – being present.
What Makes You Happy?
That is ultimately the question that you need to ask yourself at the end of the day.
Are you at a job where you feel you are slowly withering away? Are you in a relationship that makes you feel unhappy?
Someone once told me, “I just don’t feel like the person I used to be – happy.”
Perhaps, you need to spend time considering, “What makes me happy?”
Overwhelmingly happier people are healthier people.
Ultimately, if you do what makes you happy, it will bring a smile on your face. It will give you a sense of freedom and lightness. The stress will be peeled away.
Perhaps you need more sunlight, or to go meet a friend, go for a walk, or consider if it’s time to change that job.
For me, sometimes it’s just sitting here at the computer with a cup of coffee right as the sun comes up in my loft, and just before the kids wake up.
For others, it’s going outside of yourself and helping others. Whatever makes you happy, it will be something that makes you feel refreshed and vital, rather than withering away.
So please, don’t let life defeat your spirit, and I hope you have a day of unexpected blessings, happiness, and do what makes YOU happy, truly.