Is it possible to find true happiness? I have often heard people say that contentment is the closest thing to real happiness a person can ever achieve. Being the kind of person that refuses to give in, I went in search of evidence to disprove that theory, and found out that there are some truly happy people in the world, and when it come to finding out how to feel good, the answer is really simple.
People have very basic needs that must be met in order to be truly happy. Bob Murray, PhD., suggests that we need to know the difference between “feel good” happiness, and “value-based” happiness. He describes “feel good” happiness as the type of happy feeling we get from drugs, sex, power, food, and material possessions. He warns us that pursuit of this kind of happiness can leave you feeling empty, lonely, and miserable, even though you may have everything you think you desire. Value-based happiness on the other hand, can leave you with a feeling of happiness that is stable, and long-lasting. Here are 8 fundamentals to achieving value-based happiness.
1. Connection to others
Forming good relationships with other people is very essential to being truly happy. Reaching out to other people who have good habits and attitudes, will help you have them as well. Have you ever heard the saying, birds of a feather flock together? Surrounding yourself with happy people will help you be happy too.
2. Connection to yourself
Even though good relationships are important, it is also important to have a good idea of who you are as an individual. Having a good sense of independence and control over your own future and relationships, will go a long way towards making you a happier person.
Bob Murray also describes the idea that “Society has a vested interest in your self-esteem. ” Having a low self-esteem, means that you will work harder to please others, stand up for your own rights less often, and buy more stuff that you don’t need, in order to get a quick “feel good fix.”
4. Knowing your competence
Many people go through life unaware of how well they function in certain areas. Finding your strengths and listing them, will help you be more aware of how competent you are. This can also be helpful before going in for a job interview.
5. Finding a purpose
We all need to do this in order to be truly happy. This is not necessarily what we are meant to do, but what we are meant to be. In other words, sometimes just recognizing the fact that you have a place in society as a mother, brother, or best friend, can give you a sense purpose that is everlasting.
6. Connection to your body
Doing good things for your body helps build both health, and self-esteem. This is another good example of feel-good verses value-based happiness. A bag of chips will bring us temporary joy, but it will do nothing good for our mind or body. A nice warm bath, or a walk in park will also bring us joy, and will make us feel more connected to our bodies.
7. Connection to nature
Plants, animals, and fresh air are all part of our natural environment. It can be easy to get separated from nature, and only see a sunset on the big screen. It is imperative to our happiness that we strive to reconnect with nature in whatever way we can. In some parts of the world, this is more difficult, but something as simple as caring for a houseplant, or petting a dog as you walk through the park can help you feel more connected to your natural environment.
8. Spiritual connection
I’m not here to advocate any particular religion. But having a connection to something greater than yourself, is essential for true happiness. Having a spiritual connection of some kind, will help you feel that you are never alone, and that things are never completely out of control.
It could be argued, that since happiness is considered an emotion, there is no way to keep it at a constant. It will come and go as situations arise, and our emotions change. It could also be said, that our perception of happiness is based on our collective experiences, and the amount of misery we have felt in contrast. I once went to a psychology class, where the teacher informed us that we are only capable of as much joy as we have had suffering.
In some ways, this makes sense to me, because a person who is starving will be happy when they receive a slice of bread. Likewise, a person who eats a muffin every morning, would be very unhappy waking up to a piece of dry toast. Therefore, the answer to the question of how to be happy, is really a matter of personal experience and mindset. All technicalities aside, I do believe that true happiness is possible, if we keep an open mind, and pursue the kind of happiness that will last.
Bob Murray Ph D.
Alicia Fortinberry, M. S.