Everyone of us spend our time chasing happiness, it is our life’s goal to be happy and fulfilled. Where does money come into this?. Is it the most important factor in whether we are happy?. The research says otherwise.!
A seventy-five year long study on happiness carried out by researchers at Harvard University found that the only thing that truly matters in life, is relationships. Real happiness comes from having a meaningful life and in your relationships with family and friends. Several studies have shown that time spent with family and friends is the happiest way to spend your time. Looking at all the good things in our life, no matter how insignificant and being grateful for them boost our happiness. Spending quiet time for ourselves, sitting, relaxing and being aware of our breathing and living in the present moment all add to our feeling of happiness. According to Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, surrounding yourself with positive people, good vibes and having close relationships are the way to be happy. His theory of building good habits into your life like exercise, healthy eating, lots of sleep and thinking positively and appreciating the little things in life will bring untold happiness. Laugh a lot, when we laugh we trick our body into thinking that this is a consistent thing and we release a chemical in the brain that makes us think we are happier.
According to a new book called “Happy Money- the Science of Smarter Spending” people all over the world reported being happier when they spent money on others, especially someone you care about. We live in a world of unprecedented abundance, having far more than our needs, so by giving and sharing gifts with others we find that by “doing things” instead of “having things” we are happier. Everyone of us spend our time and our lives wishing for happiness. But simple things readily available can bring enormous happiness to our lives if we recognised them and eliminate the “want” factor that puts so much strain on our everyday living.
Other things that help us to be happy include sleeping more. Sleep helps the body recover from the challenges of life and helps to repair the mind and the body. It also helps us to be more productive and focused. When you suffer from sleep deprivation you fail to recall happy memories, yet we can recall gloomy memories just fine. In an experiment by a scientist called Walker, sleep deprived students could remember 81% of negative words, but only 31% that had positive connotations – something that all students should be made aware of). Other research shows that a nap during the day reversed emotions like anger and fear, enhancing our chances of being happy. Exercising for even 7 minutes a day has a profound effect on happiness and has proven to be an effective strategy for overcoming depression.
The Celtic Tiger, took a huge toll on people’s happiness. Many people were forced into long and tedious commutes every day in to work. This has been shown to make life more challenging and to take a huge toll on our happiness. Daniel Gilbert, Harvard psychologist said “Driving in traffic is a different type of a hell everyday”. The reasons why people do it are complex. Sometimes people do it to have a bigger house or a better job, but, these compensations don’t always work. Two Swiss economists who studied the effect of commuting on happiness, found that such factors could not make up for the misery created by long commutes. Long commutes means shorter time with children, family and friends and fatigue plays a negative part in lives deprived of rest and sleep. Being deprived of spending time with family and friends is one of the top five deathbed regrets – nobody ever says, I wish I spent more time in the office!.
To return to Martin Seligman who is acknowledged worldwide for his positivity, he says that spirituality is closely related to the discovery of a greater meaning in our life and this, in turn, adds to a deeper happiness. Scientists who have also studied the link between religious and spiritual engagement have found that the cultivation of “sacred moments” in daily life, like praying and meditating, provide people with hope and a deeper sense of meaning. In 1991 a study by Ellison found that having religious/spiritual beliefs increased life satisfaction and personal happiness. This was further supported by Dr Goldstein in 2007 who reported that the psychological importance of cultivating sacred moments in daily life leads to greater happiness. A large body of theory, and organisations such as the World Health Organisation, all acknowledge the value of day to day moments of connection with other people that include caring, sharing, compassion, expressing gratitude and a range of other feelings that help people, and in that process makes us happier and gives us a meaningful life.
So why do we not look a bit closer to home and take on board all the research, data and facts and practice “sacred moments” when this is what has been proven to bring happiness to our lives? Out of 603 commands in the Old Testament only two were singled out to enhance our lives, “Love God and our neighbour as ourselves”. Not too hard to do for the price of happiness.