There is no single key to happiness, but according to psychologist Professor Ed Diener, the following ingredients are vital:
1. Family and friends are crucial, the wider and deeper your interpersonal relationships the better. It’s even suggested that friendship can ward off germs, by having a ‘protective’ effect on us, in the same way that stress can trigger poor health. This is because our brains control many of the mechanisms in our bodies which are responsible for disease. ‘Happiness’ research reveals that, on average, friendship has a much larger impact on happiness than a typical person’s income itself. Economist Professor Oswald has applied a formula to estimate that we would need an extra 50,000 pounds to compensate for not having friends. Marriage can also influence our happiness, adding an average 7 years to a man’s life, and 4 years to a woman’s life; it would be interesting also to know the statistics on a greater variety of intimate relationships, such as defacto, same-sex, etc.
2. Having meaning in life; a belief in something bigger than yourself, be it religion, spirituality or a philosophy of life.
Psychologists argue we need to have goals that interest us to work towards, and which draw on our strengths and abilities, to lead fulfilling lives.
Contentment: the undervalued component of happiness
An opinion poll for the BBC series revealed that 56% of the respondents equated happiness with contentment. ‘Contentment’ can mean: accepting things as they are; mental or emotional satisfaction; a peace of mind. Does this mean not worrying or arguing? Having all you want or actually not wanting? A clear conscience? It’s a mixture of all these things, and it suggests ‘not fighting yourself’. When it comes down to it, what we want depends on us, rather than the situation; therefore by changing our perspective we can affect our level of contentment as much, if not more, as we could do by changing the situation itself.
Some quotes on happiness taken from the opinion poll.
“For me, happiness is about personal tranquillity”, “Being at peace with the way things are going”, “Happiness is when you are ok inside about where you are and who you are”, “Taking the dog for a walk”. “There is no key to happiness. The door is always open for us to choose.”
A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future. Lewis Smedes