Does happiness keep getting away from you?
Have you ever known anyone who was never happy with what they had? Someone who often made statements like the following: “I’ll be happy when I have a better job.” “I’ll be happy when I have a bigger house.” “I’ll be happy when we’ve paid the mortgage off.” “I’ll be happy when I retire.”
What about being happy now? So many people spend their lives waiting for happiness, which always seems to be conditional on the next step. Yet when that next step comes along, the happiness doesn’t come with it – seeming to be contingent on the next step instead. And so you get “happiness on wheels”, always moving ahead of you, always out of reach.
So how do we get happiness now? What factors contribute to happiness? There are a lot of theories on this. But what does the research tell us?
Well, one thing the research tells us is that if we act happy, we will feel happy. That means it’s good to walk with a spring in your step, have a firm handshake, smile a lot, and laugh. Similarly, wearing more colourful clothes, nodding more when listening to others, using more positively charged emotional words such as ‘like’ and ‘love’, and speaking a little more quickly will also have a positive effect on your state of mind.
Another thing of note is that if we are going to spend money on ourselves, we’ll get more enduring happiness from it if we buy ourselves some kind of experience, rather than some kind of object. The reason for this, is that while buying an object brings us happiness at the time, it quickly becomes normalised, so no longer brings us the pleasure it did initially. In contrast, an experience can be relived again and again, with the story told to others a number of times too, making the pleasure of the event endure over time.
The act of giving is another thing the research tells us is important. The size of the giving is not important, and even a few dollars spent on someone else can have a lasting effect on our happiness. Giving doesn’t need to involve parting with money either - giving in the form of acts of kindness will also have an enduring effect.
The actions you take have a direct result on how you feel about life. So, take action in your life so you can be happy now – treat yourself to great experiences, give to others, and act happy, and before you know it, you will be.