Happiness is subjective. What may be an ideal of achieving satisfaction for one person could easily be hell for another. Happiness is not an easy recipe that can just be given out in cookie-cutter fashion, packaged and sold. For some happiness is equal to contentment, for others, it is more identified as bliss and passion. There are many things to consider and assess to find out what makes up a person's specific formula that is in congruence with offering a happy life. Many do not know what true happiness is. While some people know where to find it everywhere they go, others are never satisfied, being happy is a temporary event at best and often elusive. What factors make the difference between these two types of people? There is one word that can describe the missing element in those who struggle to find true happiness. This word is 'Relationship.'
Relationship? The first type of relationship one needs to grow is the bond with themselves. Knowing who we are, the values and beliefs we hold, give us a framework as a structure to place our attitudes, ethics, character traits, and codes of conduct that we adopt for ourselves. Awareness of our attributes, positive qualities, negative qualities, and accepting them as our truth provides a foundation of building a relationship with self. There are three versions of self in everyone. The real self is the self, we are when no one is around, and when we are not influenced by anyone else. The ideal self is who we feel we should be. While our self-image is the self we portray to others and how we want others to see us. It is when these three are aligned that one can be more authentic and can find their version of happiness. (See illustration) The struggle of disconnection and the cognitive dissonance that occurs when these are not in alignment is what creates conflict resulting in not being content and unable to find happiness. In a recent study on life satisfaction, it states, "There were… significant correlations between dimensions of authenticity and life satisfaction. "Moreover, subjective happiness has a positive relationship with life satisfaction.” (Sarıçam, Hakan) Going through a process of discovery to learn our true selves will pave a road to gaining the congruence with the three parts of ourselves. There is often emotional and mental work to be done to reassess our beliefs and values to bring our different parts of ourselves into order. Doing this work opens the doors to realizing what produces a fulfilling and rewarding life for that individual. When learning about ourselves, we also learn our place in the universe and may identify with a source of power.
Whether believing in a higher power or a divine power, building a relationship with our source creative spirit is essential. It does not matter what this is called. It can be named 'God,' Allah, Universe, Divine Creator, or any title, regardless of how we connect to our source. Connecting with source helps us to tap into "creative energy that creates worlds"(Abraham Hicks) For those who lean toward an atheistic point of view, they tend to call their source their higher self or may not consider this area at all. For those that resonate with a higher divine power, they will find that building this relationship, as with any relationship, requires time and a certain amount of effort. It does not have to take much time; however, merely focused and deliberate time. When we grow our connection with our source energy, we can tap into this to help with many things beyond manifesting material things in life. We can connect by spending time in introspection, prayer, meditation, or even yoga. Many who meditate do so to gain peace. Meditating is an avenue of connecting with source which is much like praying. We place a focused intent when we do any of these practices, which is commonly initiated with something wanted or questioned and hopefully results in answers and clarity received, effectively building trust within the relationship between self and source.
The third type of relationship that is necessary to have a balanced and fulfilling life is relationships with others. Robert Waldinger, the fourth director of a long-term Harvard study of adult development, says that "The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period." (Robert Waldinger) It is essential that we have a connection with others. When relationships are built which are mutually benefited, with supporting ideas and values, then an individual can feel supported and understood while contributing to others in the same fashion. Equality in giving and receiving in a relationship is not easy to develop, but with goals and specific boundaries, one can manage their relationships to provide them with a sense of equitable exchange. Waldinger states that "social connections are really good for us" and "loneliness kills." He also claims the study he has been directing shows that those who have created a connection with a network of family members, friends and those within the community are overall happier, live longer lives due to being physically healthier than those who do not develop these types of fundamental ties. While it is important to have connections, it is not the number of those we connect with that is essential, but the quality of the closest relationships we have. When living life with meaningful relationships that reward us with feeling protected, supported, safe, and loved, it is easier to weather bad times and traumas that occur during a lifetime.
It is not those who have not been through hard times that are the happiest. However, it is those who have "survived great illnesses or other major life challenges and have become conscious of choices they make about their finite lives.” (Sarah Van Gelder) One does not need to live the perfect childhood to find happiness in life. Many have grown up in wealthier conditions and more comfortable lifestyles, but later in life, find themselves in poverty and dealing with loss and addictions. In the same aspect, the reverse is also true for those who were raised in lesser conditions and struggling can build themselves and grow to accomplish great things. It is primarily a person’s mindset that determines the possibility of honest happiness. Gaining congruence with the real, ideal, and self-image, aids to facilitate a frame of mind to construct relationships with others, as well as with our source creating full, dynamic, and rewarding lives. It is the deeper stuff of meaning that adds to our happiness. Food, fast cars, and all the possessions in the world will do no good if we ignore our authentic selves, however, a sense of purpose, contributing and having rewarding relationships are priceless.
Robert Waldinger, January, 25 2016Harvard director of “Harvard’s Study of Adult Development” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KkKuTCFvzI
Sarah Van Gelder. March 12,2015 “Where Can We Find Sustainable Happiness?” Greater Good Magazine
Sarıçam, Hakan. (2015). Life Satisfaction: Testing a Structural Equation Model Based on Authenticity and Subjective Happiness [Otantiklik ve Öznel Mutluluğa Dayalı Yaşam Doyumunun Yapısal Eşitlik Modeli ile Test Edilmesi ]. Polish Psychological Bulletin. 46. 278-284. 10.1515/ppb-2015-0034.