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What is happiness?

“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence”. When Aristotle said these famous words, little did he realize that this simple thing would one day become so enigmatic. The Princeton University defines happiness as a “state of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy”.

An increasing number of researchers have called upon making happiness a key health indicator. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t realize what it means to be happy. They either think they don’t deserve it or try to attain it through means that brings more frustration and misery. Worse still, they keep on sabotaging their chances to be happy. So why should you stay happy?
Why is it important to stay happy?
As we discussed, researchers are insisting that happiness and satisfaction with life should be key health indicators. Let’s find out why.
  • Health benefits: Staying happy has numerous health benefits
    • Studies have shown that people who are happier and more satisfied with life have fewer health problems in the later years.
    • In the United States, a study found that nuns who reported happiness, hope, and love in journals were likely to live longer.
  • Doing better at work: Staying happy makes you perform better. It improves your energy levels, productivity and creativity. This translates to a higher quality of work and higher income.
  • Get on top of your personal life: Happier people are more successful on their personal fronts as well. Staying happy has the following benefits:
    • Higher odds of marriage and lower odds of divorce
    • More friends
    • Stronger social support
    • Richer social interactions
    • Greater self control and coping abilities.
Ironically, most people think that they would be happier if they were more successful in their career or personal lives. The truth is that a happy person attracts more success at all fronts.
What determines happiness?
There is a lot of ongoing research on what makes people truly happy. Happiness, in general, has been found to correlate with the following:
  1. Age: As we shall discuss, people in their teens and in their 70s have been found to be the happiest. Happiness levels decline to an all time low during the mid 40s.
  2. Income: Surprisingly, more money has not made people happier, except when lifting people from poverty is concerned. Research has shown that while people in the United States have become wealthier, they are not happier.
  3. Marriage: People with happy marriages or those who are living together have been found to be happier and in better health than people who are single, divorced or widowed.
  4. Work: This particularly applies to work that you want to do. It not only helps you make money but also helps you establish relationships with colleagues.
  5. Health: Happiness appears to be inversely related to levels of stress, allergy, asthma and other chronic conditions.
  6. Leisure: Having sufficient time to unwind with friends or family has been found to make people happier.
  7. Freedom: This includes both economic freedom and political freedom. Economic freedom allows you to make the choices you want. Also, it has been found that democracy and federalism bring well-being to individuals.
  8. Spiritual practice: It’s true. Incorporating spirituality into your daily life can improve your happiness.
I know I am not happy. What can I do to fix it?
There are very few people who are perfectly happy. Each of us has our problems. But these problems should not stop us from our pursuit of happiness.
Let’s see what we can do to be happier and more satisfied individuals.
  1. Money ≠ Happiness: Believe it, my friend,  money is not equal to happiness. Put money really low on the list of things you want to achieve. Money is only a means of having a decent standard of life. As long as your basic requirements are met, that’s it. It is no longer useful in bringing further happiness. However, if your basic requirements comprise of a Bentley and Fendi, it’s probably time to re-evaluate your attitude.
  2. Have small, meaningful and realistic goals: It’s important to realize that you are not Superman. You can’t do a hundred things at once and be at 3-4 places at the same time. Sit back and jot down a list of things you would really want. Then break it up into small, achievable goals. Get set on achieving them, slowly, enjoying every single minute of it. Now relax! It’s time to reap the benefits of your hard work.
  3. Treasure your relationships: Tell your spouse how much you love him/her. Call your parents to say how much you miss them. Would it not feel nice, if somebody did the same for you? Then why don’t you make a start. Show everybody that you do care
  4. Show gratitude: Have you said thank you to the person who cleans your office? Try it. It will make you and them happier.
  5. Do what you like: Somebody very famously said, “If you like what you do, work is like play. You don’t realize how the hours disappear.” Do try to take up a job that you enjoy. If your job is monotonous or stressful, keep up your enthusiasm by taking time out for a hobby that fills you with positive energy. Take initiative at work: Taking initiative at work can make you feel more creative and more in control of things. It makes people look up to you, apart from keeping your boss happy.
  6. Savor the small things in life: Do you remember the last time you just stood watching kids play in the park? Too busy for these small things? Think again. It is in these small moments that the secret of your smile lies.
  7. Avoid comparing yourself to others: Ok, Sunil Babu got a new house and a new car. So what? You don’t need to be one up on him. Even if you do win the rat race, remember that you still are, just a rat.
  8. Exercise: Amongst the numerous health benefits that exercise has, happiness is one of them. So get going. Now!
  9. Charity: You know you don’t need that 6th white shirt in your closet. Give it away, my friend. Somebody needs it much more than you do.
If you closely look at the above, it’ll make you realize why we were happier as children. We always put our hands up when we knew the answer, shared our stuff with our friends, said our thanks, played till we dropped and came running back to our parents for every little thing.
It’s probably time for each of us to introspect. Let us look within and find the answers we all are looking for. Making ourselves happy is the first step towards making others happy.

By Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar  | Health Care Magic


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Health & Fitness: What is happiness?
What is happiness?
Health & Fitness
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