As I get older, I have noticed that it takes more work to remain happy. When you’re a kid, it is often something you don’t think about. You run, play, socialize, eat, sleep, don’t worry about finances, go to school and generally feel loved. Interestingly, these are some of the very things that experts point to that make us happy. Kids do many of these things naturally, but somewhere along life’s journey, we can forget about them.
There is a combination of five factors that contribute to a person’s overall happiness. They are: a sense of purpose, physical health, financial stability, social interaction and community involvement. These seem to be universal in that we all require some level of each of these in order to achieve optimal happiness. The difference is that each individual requires a unique ratio of them. For instance, I require a little less social interaction and a little more sense of purpose in life. If I were to put percentages on each category’s effect on my own personal happiness it would be:
Purpose- 30%, health- 30%, social-20%, finances-10%, community- 10%. I will briefly explain what each category means to me. I encourage you to figure out your own personal percentages and then act on them—which is the hardest part of all.
Sense of Purpose
A sense of purpose is waking up every day and knowing you are going to do something not only rewarding to you, but something that makes a difference in the world. A good portion of this is mental. A garbage man may think from time to time his job is menial. It isn’t. Imagine where we would be in life if we didn’t have folks show up at our houses once a week to collect the garbage and take it to the mysterious garbage land. He is making a huge difference in all of our lives. A bartender may feel similar. Ok so you pour drinks for people. Well I have known bartenders who can light up an entire room just by being there. People will come to the bar on the days she is working because her light is shining and in turn making their inner light shine as well. Another aspect of having a sense of purpose is looking forward. Maybe you don’t want to be a garbage man or bartender for the rest of your life. That’s ok. But what are you doing to better yourself in order to get where you want to be?
This is weighted so heavily because if you are not physically healthy the other factors can become difficult to accomplish. It is difficult to be social if you don’t feel well. Sometimes our health is out of our hands, but there are certainly things we can control in order to give ourselves the best possible chance. And they are no secret—eating responsibly, getting yourself moving and sleeping the necessary amount. If you are able to do these three things with any degree of success you will be positioning yourself for a happy life.
I think this is the most underrated of all the happiness components. While I mentioned I earlier that I may not need as much social interaction as some, the fact that we all need people cannot be questioned. Why do you think that condemning a convict to solitary confinement is such a heavy punishment and even considered cruel and unusual by some in the legal field? You are removing that person’s ability to interact with other human beings.
As an introvert I definitely need my personal time to lay on the couch and look at memes on the internet, but once I reach a certain point I can start to feel my happiness levels sinking. It is at those times where I try to get out and about. I don’t always do it, but I at least know that I should. Many of the people who I know to be the happiest spend very little time alone, are always going somewhere and have a lot of friends and a handful of extremely close ones. I read something recently where an author on the topic of happiness said the key to the social puzzle piece is being likable, having a tight inner circle of approximately three close friends and loving someone. Strive for that.
Being financially stable is vastly different from being rich. Some of the unhappiest people would be considered financially wealthy. Look at celebrities. Business executives. They often appear to have everything one could want in this world, but at the same time can be some of the most depressed. This is because their percentages are out of whack. Obviously, there are some extremely happy celebrities and business executives. They have found the right balance in life and I guarantee they wouldn’t say that being rich is the source of their happiness. It is their lifestyle. Financial stability is a component of happiness because no one wants to worry about their next paycheck, whether they are going to be able to afford food or if they can make the mortgage payment this month. Stability should not be confused with being rich.
This is the warm-fuzzy feeling category. It is not necessarily helping out at the local soup kitchen or humane society—although it certainly can include those things. It is more about giving back. What are you doing (not related to your normal work) to make your community better? Maybe you helped your neighbor clean out his garage or shovel his driveway, made a charitable contribution to the library, went to a park and let the kids play with your dog. The sky is the limit with this one and can be one of the most rewarding.
That just about covers it. Like I said earlier—take time to figure out which of these you need the most, assign percentages and most importantly take steps to make them a reality. I will do the same. Good luck and stay happy!
Oh—and if all else fails—get a dog. They are good for a minimum of a 15% bonus if you find yourself lacking in any category.