When we think of happiness or what makes us happy, common initial responses tend to be more money, losing weight, a nicer car, a bigger home, good grades in school, and the newest tech devices on the market. Research and studies have shown that these things bring happiness in the interim, but in the long term, provide no more happiness than before these things have been attained. So what TRULY makes us happy?
Seeking out opportunities to be kinder to one another and providing simple acts of kindness often provide happiness in our own lives. In order to maximize happiness, one must become intentional with this practice and mindful about the endless possibilities of how to provide kindness to others. Some examples include taking a friend to lunch, buying someone a cup of coffee, caring for another’s pet while they may be unable to, or helping an elderly person while they are out and about. No act of kindness is too small.
Think about the last time you connected with someone on a social level. This could have been a family member, friend, even a stranger. How did you feel after being connected? Spending time with others can merely indicate whether someone will be happy. Additionally, people with close ties are less vulnerable to premature death, more likely to survive a fatal illness, and less likely to fall prey during stressful events. Do not underestimate the phenomena of social connection.
Intuitions are often wrong when we think we need to be making more money or need to go and spend money on ourselves. Some key points that I’ve learned from The Science of Well-Being is that there are 4 Annoying Features of the Mind. The first is to understand that our strongest intuitions are often misleading (ugh!). Second, we judge ourselves relative to reference points which are often irrelevant and make us feel worse than we should (we can blame this on social media for sure). Third, understand that our minds are programmed to adapt and ultimately get used to things and these things are not necessarily for the greater good. The final annoying feature of the mind is that we don’t realize how good we are at adapting and coping, and mispredict how certain outcomes will make us feel. This is why all of the above mentioned things we often think will bring happiness to our lives do not.
How are these annoying cognitive features impacting your daily life? Don’t we all want to see true happiness and not just those things we think will make us happy? Yale University has provided rewirement activities on Random Acts of Kindness and Social Connection (click here for both PDFs) so tracking these intentional behaviors is made apparent and one can visually understand the process.
It’s never too late to set these practices up so you can maximize your happiness.
X ~ Jaclyn