Kicking happiness while it’s hot

You want to be happy? Then be, what are you waiting for? Despite appearances, no one and nothing can make us happy unless we do it ourselves.

Kicking happiness while it's hot

If you only had a month of your life ahead of you, what would you be doing? What would you spend that time on? What is most important to you?

It’s hard to imagine when a person is at full strength and thinks they still have time to do everything in life. But it’s worth doing this exercise from time to time, because it can help you realize that you may be making yourself unhappy by doing things that don’t really make you happy.

Psychologist Michael Argyle has spent many years researching happiness – that is, what makes us feel satisfied with life and with ourselves, have a good mood, feel that our life has meaning, that we have achieved success. It turns out that it consists of the simplest, even trivial things.

Factor 1: Love – family

The most intense sense of happiness is experienced when we are in love with each other. And it’s not just fantastic sex. Just being around a loved one puts us in an almost euphoric state.This unfortunately passes. But not so completely. Although marriage as an institution hasn’t been getting good press lately, it is one of the best ways to be happy.

“People who live on their own are not as happy as married people. They have more sex than married couples of the same age, but they are less satisfied with love,” – Argyle writes. Big-city lifestyles – lots of work, no time for loved ones, loose partnerships, focusing on our own pleasures – make us feel freer but also less happy. Besides, marriage involves having children. And children provide us with an abundance of joy, satisfaction and a sense of meaningfulness in our lives – the inherent components of happiness.

The recipe for happiness: Happy couples, when asked about the recipe for a relationship, often say surprising things: “My marriage rather resembles a well-managed business. Responsibilities arise from prior negotiations. I also try to make sure that the time we spend together is meaningfully organized and planned. We have learned that relationship satisfaction needs to be worked on.” – says one of the interviewees. Indeed, it is a mistake to assume that everything will work out by itself and to expect that the relationship will only provide us with pleasant emotions. Realistic expectations and a task-oriented approach bring the deepest satisfaction.

Factor 2: Friendships – relatives

Complaining about annoying relatives or the awkwardness of having to go to an aunt’s house for a name day is not reflected in the research. Family is a powerful source of happiness. Relatives give us support, and the fact that we have known each other almost all our lives creates a state of deep attachment and we enjoy just being in their company. Friends are also a source of positive experiences. People who have many friends and spend more time with them tend to feel happier.

A recipe for happiness: Don’t despise family gatherings. Even if relatives annoy us or make us laugh, meeting them gives us a great sense of security. Take care of old friends, even if you don’t have the time – one phone call a week is a small effort, and an evening spent with them is much more fun than sitting on the couch alone in front of the TV with a can of beer.

Factor 3: Work

It’s true that work is less satisfying than, say, a successful marriage, but job dissatisfaction is, according to research, the most serious source of unhappiness. As many as 30 percent. People say that even if they won the Lotto, they would continue working at their job. What kind of work brings the most satisfaction? Well, employees are happiest in jobs that allow for the greatest variety of tasks and where they are most independent. One of the most important components of job satisfaction is interactions with co-workers.

We feel best when co-workers like us and we form a cohesive group together. It turns out that support from colleagues and supervisors is one of the conditions for mental health, and a link has even been discovered between this and life expectancy. How important work is to our well-being is most often found out when we lose it.

Losing a job can make us unhappy. We lose our sense of security, our self-esteem goes down, we feel thrown to the margins of life. Unemployment undermines our mental health, increasing the risk of falling into addictions, depression and the risk of suicide. The worst thing we endure is excess time and lack of contact with people.

A recipe for happiness: Whenever possible, look for a job that is best suited to your qualifications, disposition and aspirations. Even a lot of money is not enough to compensate for the bad mood that an idle and monotonous job can put us in. If you don’t have much choice, look for a job where you have a lot of contact with people. If, knock on wood, unemployment will catch up with us, we should first of all think about organizing our time. Social activity, volunteering, etc. may protect us from depression and restore our self-confidence. The previously mentioned care for friendships also pays off here. It is at times like this that they are a powerful support for us.

Factor 4: Free time

“If you want to be happy for a few hours, get drunk. If you want to be happy for a few years, get married. If you want to be happy all your life, plant a garden.” – so the old saying goes. Satisfaction with leisure time is one component of the Life Satisfaction Index, developed at the University of Michigan. After all, we can use it, unforced by anyone, to do things we enjoy. So why are so many people simply bored or staring blankly at a television screen in their spare time? The main difference between people whose leisure time makes them happy and those who are bored is activity. Organizing one’s free time is a certain skill, which we usually learn at home. It is also worth noting that leisure time activities are more enjoyable for most people if we participate in them together with our friends.

Recipe for happinessJust start doing what makes you happy. Find a hobby. Research clearly shows that it doesn’t have to cost a lot at all. On the contrary, a trip to Bora Bora can be a major stress, because it’s both expensive and a long plane ride away. And it can be simpler. When was the last time you hiked in the mountains? After all, there are few pleasures as great as a day’s mountain hike and tea in a hostel.

Buy a bike. You’ll feel the joy of riding as intensely as you did as a child. Gardening ranks surprisingly high on the happiness scale, and this doesn’t just apply to retirees.

Factor 5: Personality

There are many theories that claim that feeling satisfied with life is related to personality traits. Extroverts – meaning people who are adventurous, dynamic and sociable – spend more time with people and actively seek pleasure. People who tend to see only the positive sides of reality – in psychology this is called the Polyanna syndrome – are more optimistic about life, judge events as more pleasant, have a better opinion of other people and remember more positive events. There is also a relatively constant personality trait called self-control – such people believe that they are the masters of their own destiny and thanks to this trait they take more joy from life. You could say that instead of feeling like a victim of fate, they actively shape their reality. Religious people are happier, and this is also one of the relatively constant components of personality, they feel less lonely, less often tormented by the sense of meaninglessness of life.

A recipe for happinessCan you change your personality? It would seem not, but certain traits can be changed. Shy people feel less happy because, while desiring contact with others, they also feel great stress when entering into new relationships. However, practice shows that certain social skills can be learned. A matter of decision. If you cultivate your shyness and carefully avoid other people, you will never practice the necessary skills. However, we often find that if circumstances or the nature of the job force us to do so, sooner or later we learn the appropriate skills. It seems that in general, taking a proactive stance and deciding “I’m going to be in charge of my own destiny” makes us start to feel more joy in life.

Factor 6: Positive thinking

How do we induce a positive mood? Laboratory studies conducted in 1968 by Velten demonstrated the effectiveness of the much derided positive thinking. Respondents who were asked to read a series of statements such as “I feel really great” and “I’m happy about a lot of things” actually rated their mood as more positive. Such a technique, applied daily, produced lasting positive changes in attitudes toward life after just two weeks.

A recipe for happinessIt’s not entirely clear whether the method is equally effective for everyone, but what’s the harm in checking. For example, every day while driving to work, repeat a few choice phrases to yourself: “I am full of energy”, “I feel satisfied, relaxed and happy”, “Everything works for me”. Witchcraft? Try it. Happy people actively seek ways to achieve pleasure.

Experience it yourself

Pleasant events that affect the mood of your entire day. Seek them out actively and you’ll be happy. Instead of whining that life is not one string of pleasures, accept that happiness is the sum of positive events. Here’s a list of people’s highest rated activities.

Relating to other people:
Being among happy, amused people.
Interest from people.
Being with friends.
Adoration from the opposite sex.
Professing love.
Caressing, foreplay.
Being with someone you love.
Saying compliments.
Being asked for help and advice.
Getting to know someone attractive.
When done alone
Laughing – watching comedy.
Feeling relaxed.
Thinking about something good.
Thinking about your favourite people.
Looking at beautiful landscapes.
Breathing fresh air.
Being in peace and quiet.
Sitting in the sun.
Free time devoted to hobbies.
Sleeping soundly at night.
Listening to music.
Smiling at people.
Observing that loved ones are doing well.
Feeling the presence of God in one’s life.
Related to self-development:
Completing a project in your own way.
Reading books.
Planning or organizing something.
Being able to drive a car.
Saying something directly.
Learning something new.
Listening to compliments.
Doing some work well.
Eating a good meal.
Going out to a restaurant.
Being with animals.
Source: Lewinsohn and Graf, 1973.

What should give us food for thought is that almost every one of these pleasures is generally available. None of them requires a lot of money. We feel happy in the company of nice people who like, accept, and respect us. We enjoy arousing the interest of the opposite sex, and it makes us happy when we do a job in which we use our skills well. We enjoy contact with nature. Man is a simple creature, only unnecessarily complicates everything so much.

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