How to be happy
A lot of happiness (and unhappiness) comes from within. But there are other things that matter a lot: relationships, doing important work, living your life according to your values, having a spiritual aspect to your life.
If I learn to find joy in family, friends, and my relationship with God, stuff doesn’t matter. Sure, nice things might add convenience or a momentary spender’s high to my life, but in the end they don’t really bring happiness. True happiness comes from within.
She's hit the nail on the head as far as stuff goes. But there's a complex relationship between the happiness that comes from within and the joy that people find in family, friends, and their spiritual life.
Part of being happy is simply brain chemicals--the fact that antidepressants work proves that. (The book Listening to Prozac has a fascinating exploration of the implications.) Part of being happy is simply part of each individual's makeup--studies of people who have suffered a loss show that most people return to a baseline level of happiness, even after a blow as severe as a crippling injury or learning they have a terminal illness. But those other things that Lynnae mentioned are also important, and I'm not sure it's helpful to think of things like friendship or family as coming from within.
Having a strong network of relationships--friends and family--is probably the most important factor in determining how happy you are. Having some sort of spiritual aspect to your life helps as well--having a connection with something larger than yourself can give meaning to all aspects of your life. But even that's not the end of the story.
Another important part of being happy is living your life in accordance with your own values. Perhaps to Lynnae that's implicit in her relationship with God, but I'm not sure it's always so simple. Even people of great faith (perhaps especially people of great faith) struggle to live according to their values. It's hard to be happy when you know you're falling short. Whether or not your actions reflect your values is something that you know inside you, but the actions affect the world, and whenever that's true, the line between inside and outside becomes fuzzy.
Finally, I want to mention work. A lot of people work at something for which they lack passion--or even actively dislike. This is no good way to be happy. In fact, I'd say it was impossible to be fully happy unless your work:
- uses your core talents,
- either helps people or produces something of value, and
- is respected by your peers.
Since it's also important to provide for your family, a lot of people try to balance these things by having a "day job" purely to earn a paycheck, and having something else that they think of as their true work. Everyone knows that's a tough balancing act to manage. I've done enough of that in my own life (and undertook to change only when I was virtually forced to), that I don't feel entirely comfortable counseling people to do otherwise. But if you go that route, do it with your eyes open. It's much better if your work and your day job can be one in the same.
Happiness comes from within, but those other things--relationships, important work, living your values, and a spiritual connection--connect what's within to what's without, and you can't be happy without them.
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