What Makes Happiness?
There have actually been studies about all this, as you may know. And not just by psychologists. Economists have gotten on the band wagon as well. And, in fact, there is even a World Data Base of Happiness, documenting the results of polls and surveys of many countries around the world, then rating them for happiness, and discussing the why’s and wherefore’s.
The U.S. and Canada did pretty well. In a range of 1 to 10, both countries were about 7.4. In a 2008 article in Health Affairs, Dr. Carol Graham found that wealthy people are, for the most part, happier than those who are poor. Wealthier countries that Have, are happier than those who are Have Not. Poverty, it was found, was bad for happiness. (I know, this is where you may say “Duh.”) That is, on the whole. And once a certain level of income was attained, more wealth did not increase happiness.
It happens that the happiest people on earth (according to the World Data Base on Happiness) are in Costa Rica. (This is also said to be an excellent and relatively inexpensive place to retire). They got an 8.5 on the scale. Factors for them, although most do not have what would be considered wealth, were the climate (living in Minnesota I can testify that weather does impact one’s happiness or at least mood), and also stable government and little violence. The studies done on happiness do agree that there are many variables. Some countries and/or people who are “poor” really don’t expect much and so feel satisfied and are therefore happy. Others who are wealthy continually expect more and are rarely satisfied or really happy.
In the Western world, happiness is often dependent on youth, looks and weight. Obesity, for instance, can cause unhappiness. Unless you live in an area where it is typical. Or in a country like Russia, where your weight represents affluence.
So what’s a person to do?
Researchers say to have strong ties with family and friends, spirituality, social support including a church group, love, self-respect and respect from others, and a positive attitude. Most of these are factors are one that we can largely control or change. And consequently they will help us feel that we are more in control of our lives and happiness.
I can say from working with the elderly, there is a vast difference in those who have learned to cultivate a positive attitude (like my own dad) and those who have not. A vast difference in how they cope with life and health in general, and in their happiness. And I can also say, that it can be learned. It’s never too late and we’re never too old. It just takes deciding -- to change perspectives and also to practice being grateful. (A really good way to get happy quite quickly). Like in Pollyanna’s “glad game.” It works, it’s free, it clears the mind, and anyone can do it anywhere and anytime.
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The best to you,
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