Chicken or the Egg on Happiness?
Happiness: Something we all would like to have a lot of in our lives. But the reality for many is that happiness is a fleeting emotion, something more often chased than found and kept.
It’s a bit like the old chicken and egg argument: What comes first? Happiness and then a great life with all the things you want in it? Or does a great life with health and wealth and love lead to happiness?
A study published this July in Applied Psychology examined and analyzed this very concept. Specifically, it looked at how your perception of your well-being (i.e. your happiness) affects your health, as well as how various things affect your well-being—factors like income, feelings of respect, status, social support, quality of medical care, exercise, nutrition, and relationships.
In short, they found each of the above factors affects our perception of our well-being, but the degree to which each one impacts a person varies depending on the individual.
The point is, though, our happiness, or at least our perception of our well-being, is definitely altered based on tangible influences in our lives.
And on the other hand, the study found being unhappy, or feeling bad about ourselves, directly affects our physical health, as it is linked to cardiovascular health, immune function, cortisol and stress (and hormonal function in general), and even mortality.
Meanwhile, happy people tend to heal faster from wounds and injuries, even from surgery. Not to mention those with high well-being scores are more likely to engage in behaviors that directly affect their health, like working out—a bit of a positive domino effect.
Unfortunately, the research didn’t provide any solutions as to HOW: How do you go about becoming happier if it’s something you struggle with. If you know you’re the type whose happiness is tied to things like exercise and diet and being productive at work, then that’s probably as good start. Come up with a plan to do more of the things you know will impact your well-being and happiness.
But if you’re not even sure what makes you happy, and why you’re not happy much of the time, here are two ideas to get your brain going:
Ask yourself and answer (physically write down your answers) the following questions:
•When do I feel happiest? (What activities am I doing? What’s going on in my life?)
•When do I feel unhappy?
•When was the last time I was feeling happy? What was going on in my life then?
•What would I need more of or less of in my life to become happier?
Then set a plan in motion—again, write it down—to help you get more of what you want and less of what you don’t want.
Personal development course
There are a host of personal development courses out there. Many of them make you dive into your past to discover what’s really going on. Yes, they are scary. Yes, they are weird and require some serious open-mindedness on your part to get on board, but I’ve never met anyone who has said he or she didn’t get anything out of them.
At the end of the day, the path the greater happiness starts with understanding: Understanding why you are the way your are, what you need, and how to get there.