Happiness is a fundamental human goal. On the 20 March it was International Happiness Day.
The initiative to declare a day of happiness came from Bhutan, a country whose citizens are considered to be some of the happiest people in the world.
By designating a special day for happiness, the United Nations aims to ficus world attention on the idea that economic wealth must be inclusive, equitable and balanced such that it develops sustainable development and alleviates poverty. Additionally the United Nations acknowledges that in order to attain global happiness, economic development must be accompanied by social and environmental well being.
- In 1938, Harvard University began following 268 male undergraduate students tracking their physical and emotional health for 75 years (these men are now well into their 90s)
- The study’s goal was to determine as best as possible what factors contribute most strongly to human flourishing
- The data collected was an enormous range of psychological, anthropological, and physical traits — ranging from personality type to IQ to drinking habits to family relationships to “hanging length of his scrotum”.
- The participants were followed through marriage, parenthood, divorce, career troubles, second (and third) marriages, bouts with alcoholism, parental death, and the golden years of grandchildren and physical lessening
- The study is known as the Harvard Grant Study and has some limitations – particularly because it didn’t include women. Still, it provides an unrivalled glimpse into a subset of humanity
Love Is Really All That Matters
- It may seem obvious, but that doesn’t make it any less true: Love is key to a happy and fulfilling life.
- A man could have a successful career, money and good physical health, but without supportive, loving relationships, he wouldn’t be happy
It’s About More than Money and Power
- The Grant Study’s findings echoed those of other studies — that acquiring more money and power doesn’t correlate to greater happiness.
- That’s not to say money or traditional career success don’t matter. But they’re small parts of a much larger picture — and while they may loom large for us in the moment, they diminish in importance when viewed in the context of a full life.
- Contentment in the late 70s was not even suggestively associated with parental social class or even the man’s own income.
Regardless of How We Begin Life, We Can All Become Happier
- The men who did well in old age did not necessarily do so well in midlife
- A man named Godfrey Minot Camille went into the Grant study with fairly bleak prospects for life satisfaction: He had the lowest rating for future stability of all the subjects and he had previously attempted suicide. But at the end of his life, he was one of the happiest. Why? He formed warm and loving relationships.
Connection Is Crucial
- The more areas in your life you can make connection, the better.
- The study found strong relationships to be far and away the strongest predictor of life satisfaction. And in terms of career satisfaction, too, feeling connected to one’s work was far more important than making money or achieving traditional success.
- As life goes on, connections become even more important. The Grant Study provides strong support for the growing body of research that has linked social connections with lower stress levels, improved overall wellbeing and longevity.
Challenges –- and the Perspective They Give You — Can Make You Happier
- The journey from immaturity to maturity, is a sort of movement from narcissism to connection, and a big part of this shift has to do with the way we deal with challenges.
- Coping mechanisms.The secret seems to be replacing narcissism, a single-minded focus on one’s own emotions and perceived problems, with mature coping defences.