During the last weeks, I did a lot of research about happiness and contentment. Let’s make it short and skip thousands of micro formulas and numerous books of appraised authors that make you think ‘WOW! How could I survive a single day without this concept?”
The reason is simple: These formulas do not work. Actually it’s impossible to have a master formula because there are seven billion people on this planet and EVERYONE is different. When you look at your best friends, you will notice that even between like minded people there are different values, goals and dreams.
So let’s ask science – there are numerous studies from several decades. Fun fact: All of them have basically the same basic messages.
Lesson #1: You need to spend time with other people
Studies from all over the world come to the same conclusion: You need to have close friends or family members that you can rely on. It is a scientific fact: People with meaningful relationships are happier and healthier. We humans are social animals – so meet your friend, call your mom, talk to your colleague. You need to spend time with beloved people to live a satisfying life.
Lesson #2: Material things (unfortunately) won’t make you happy
I have to make a confession: I love high-end designer clothes. Yes, I get a faster heartbeat when I see a Chanel coat and I would easily spend more than 500 euros for a handbag – without the hint of a bad conscience.
However, these spendings are not the path to happiness. Material things will never, ever raise the level of contentment. Research shows that you need a certain amount of money to afford food, clothes and a nice home. As soon as those needs are fulfilled, your personal happiness scale doesn’t care at all about more material stuff. It is simple: The more money you make, the more stuff you want. You only adapt your lifestyle - and then you want more, more, more.
So, even if the income line goes straight up, your personal contentment is frozen at the same level. Make sure you never expect a rise of happiness when you earn or buy something special. It won’t change anything.
Lesson #3: Every good deed makes you happier
It sounds very selfish: Help other people and your mood will improve. However, this is a proven fact: When you do a good deed and experience gratefulness from another person, you feel much better. So go ahead and bring flowers to the office, make your friend a compliment, buy a homeless person a sandwich or offer your apartment to a friend who is in town.
Lesson #4: Find a time-filling activity
Your life is a long train ride – you have no idea where the hell you are going or who else is on the train. So you need to know at least WHY you are sitting in that seat. Find a purposeful activity, a creative one or a theoretical one, and immerse yourself in it.
You need one steady element in your life that makes you smile: cooking, building a business, teaching, painting, working in politics, solving mathematical problems, singing, reading, learning languages...
Lesson #5: Stop the pursuit for happiness
Be aware that all the theories in books, magazines and advisers can cause a lot of damage. Actually, psychologists such as Iris Mauss from UC Berkeley found out that it's working against you. When you focus on being happy, you focus on your personal gains all the time – and that will damage your connections to other people. There we go, right back at lesson #1!
Some personal words…why I stopped looking
Life is not a race, so we have to let it go and start fun activities. Even the oldest scriptures tell us not to get caught up in our minds, but to enjoy the present moment and our time with beloved people.
I know it sounds so easy, but I have to remind myself every day: Life is most convenient when you are a relaxed person. When you can let it go. When you are not too attached. When you can shrug your shoulders if someone is gossiping about you. When you don’t make a big fuss about everything. When you are not too jealous. When you have nothing to prove (because you are already enough). When you can make people smile. When you can throw that designer bag into the garbage if someone would force you to.
My personal hero is a wise man who described his secret for happiness with the words:
I simply don’t care that much.
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