Can we be Happier? Tips for increasing life satisfaction

So, can we be happier?


Research shows that the Happiness does benefit us and the happier we are the happier we can make those around us too. Our own perceived happiness has an impact on quality of life and how long we live.


So what is happiness?

Happiness is “a state of fully satisfied consciousness”. It’s a state of mind that depends on how it is interpreted. Happiness may also be defined as the experience of frequent positive affect, infrequent negative affect and an overall sense of satisfaction with life as a whole.


It seems paradoxical in modern life with increased rates of health, comfort and modern medicine that happiness is not more abundant. You can see on the map below happiness levels monitored across countries.



This is what can affect your sense of happiness:


  • Mental Health

  • Quality of Work

  • Our partners

  • Not being in work

  • Physical Health

  • How much we earn

  • Education

  • Criminal Convictions

  • Trust in our governance systems

  • Social Support

  • Generosity

  • Recent positive and negative events.

Whoever is happy will make others happy too…How wonderful that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. - Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl.

Whether we are teachers, managers, health care workers, fitness professionals, community members or individuals. We all have the ability to impact on the potential for happiness in others.

A sense of belonging In these places where we spend so much time has such an impact on our well-being and support in building mutual and trusting relationships that support working together in all areas of our lives.


Some things we do are direct and others indirect. When we engage with the topic at hand. Also when we start to design our spaces for people who need more support we all benefit.

Here's an example. Imagine for a moment you are an olympic athlete. You were spotted when you were a young child and you have been training for decades for the olympics. you have to get up at 5:30am 6 days a week and on the 7th day it's 6:30 am. You have to eat a very strict diet and follow a gruelling training regime. You are tired and cold at 5:30am, you feel hungry alot of the time and you spend the majority of your life in physical pain. Either the immediate pain endured during the training session where you have to work close to your maximum or sore afterwards as the muscles build. Maybe you even have an injury from time to time as you are constantly pushing yourself to your physical edge. How could anyone be happy with this?


Here's the other aspects that might contribute to the athletes overall happiness despite their physical pain. They are sponsored so don't have to worry about paying bills, travel expenses or accommodation. They share their accommodation with like minded people and often discuss their ups and downs at home. They have open dialogue with their coach and team about the realities of training and understand the risks and rewards, They probably have access to sports psychologists to discuss the mental effects of their training. Perhaps they feel a sense of purpose and enjoy the focus and drive of the task at hand. They have a goal (the Olympics) and have broken down the steps needed to get there. They also have a reward, not just the gold medal but participating in an event that very few get to experience.


Can we see how happiness is built from that balance of drive, rest and support? Can we also see how the factors that make that athlete happy are not going to be the same ones that would work for someone else?


Happiness is not just an immediate state, it's not like a vending machine that you top up with coins for a package of happy when you need a boost. It's only partly to do with the immediate effects after a life event such as a wedding, promotion or birthday celebration. It is the sum of the parts, not just external influences like money (sponsorship) or achievement (medal at the olympics) but the biological connections like compassion (team mates or peers) and affection (coach, family, friends) and safety (physios, family, psychologist).


Not all of us can be Olympic athletes, even some of the people who can be won't get scouted. So we can build happiness in ourselves and communities by understanding what our own needs are. Where do we put too much effort in and not enough? What is it our friends and family call us up to help them with? These are certainly clues.


A tool to help

You can print or copy out the life balance wheel below. The segments near the centre are a 1 and the ones on the outside of the wheel are a 10. Rate each area of your life from a 1-10 and colour in the wheel. You don't need to make rash changes as it's just a snapshot in time but it can be a good visual way to help you to decide where you put your focus moving forward. It can also be a good reflective tool. You can do it once a month or a few times a year and see for yourself how your life ebs and flows. In particular, you can see how the changes you make impact your wellbeing.

Here are some examples of complete life balance wheels. Note that it is not expected to get a 10 in all of these areas. Maybe you have retired and you have put a lot into the career and family section and are learning how to have fun again. Maybe you have been putting career first and are reconnecting with friends and family. Maybe you are returning to work after having a baby, or are on a gap year or are recovering from an illness... the combinations are almost endless.
















References


UKEssays. (November 2018). The Value Of Happiness In The Workplace. Retrieved from https://www.ukessays.com/essays/philosophy/the-value-of-happiness-in-the-workplace-philosophy-essay.php?vref=1


Happiness Map - https://www.visualcapitalist.com/mapped-global-happiness-levels-in-2021/


Ricahrd Layard 'Can we be happier? Evidence and Ethics'


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