The myth of a happy life – what’s the source of joy?
Don’t worry. Be happy
The happiness slogan smiles at us from every corner. We have books about happiness, happiness coaching and in Germany even jam, which is called “Glueck” (happiness).
I completely dedicated myself to a happy life – and with this blog, I invited you to do the same. But what exactly is a HAPPY LIFE? What makes us call our lives happy? What is the source of joy?
The common misunderstanding is that we have a happy life if we make the most out of it. We want to earn enough money to fulfill all our dreams, we want success and a happy family. In an attempt to do so, we study, we work long hours and in our “free-time” we cramp in voluntary activities or accompany our children to their sports activities to spend family time. In addition, we steel our bodies in the gym, eat healthily and deny ourselves extra calories to avoid “the waste of time” in the gym. (Related: “Do less gain more – how reducing your daily activities lead to more fulfillment”)
Does this really make us happy?
What will happen once we earned enough money and fulfilled our dream? There comes another dream and then another. Our business can always earn more money, we can always be more famous, and our bodies can be healthier and better in shape. If we only chase the next dream, our cravings will never stop.
As a result, the number of people suffering from burn-out and depression have increased significantly (example from Sweden) . This number has increased dramatically since the start of the pandemic (documented by the Harvard Business Review). People are tired and exhausted when all they want is to live a happy life.
But how can we escape the treadmill of doing more and more every day just to live a happy life? What, overall is a happy life and who can tell us about it?
If you ask a happiness coach, he might reveal certain steps to look after the things, which make you happy and restructure your life accordingly. You can also dive into reading about famous personalities, absorbing the stories about their career and success, and try to implement them for yourself. But the best answer to these questions is to talk to people who already lived a great part of their lives and whole-heartedly call it happy.
What makes people happy?
Was the question from the Harvard Medical School they wanted to investigate over 80 years ago. In their “Harvard Study of Adult Development” they studied adults’ life over a period of over 80 years now to determine the key factors for their physical and mental health. They observed Harvard sophomores from the year 1938 and eventually extended their research on the men’s offspring. A second study called the Gluck study asked the test persons about their personal happiness factors. They tested their blood, scanned their brains, and escorted them over their lifespan.
What were the main factors, which made all the difference? What made people call their lives a happy life and what was their source of joy?
The scientists found out that the definition of a happy life was to a high percentage linked to their relationships – how stable they were and how happy the test persons felt in them.
“The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health,” said Robert Waldinger, director of the study, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too. That, I think, is the revelation.”
In the end, what counted most for the subject was neither fame nor money, but close relationships. The bondage to their near relatives helped them deal with life’s discontents, helped to delay mental and physical decline, and were better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes.
The source of joy is living with purpose and enjoy our friends & families
This is something we should really take into consideration. All those activities we cramp into our daily schedules to live a happy life often time keep us even more away from our loved ones, from the relationships which are our source of joy at the end of the day. So instead of adding up countless doings, we should choose to perform the right ones. Actions which help deepen our relationships or even help others. Caring for the environment not because its opportune right now, but because it is a heartfelt wish for you.
It is the purpose in life we are seeking. It is living a fulfilled life in terms greater than money or fame. More than anything else stable relationship help us finding purpose and fulfillment.
Buying a pot of “Happiness Jam” can make you feel happy. But it will feel way better, if you share it with your beloved ones or donate to a person in need. Above all, happiness in life is not a number on your bank account, but the million little joys you encounter throughout your life.
“I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all, to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.”