The New Year has begun. What will 2016 have in store for us? To most people a new year means a new chance at finding happiness. Whether or not New Year’s resolutions have been made, how to go about the pursuit of happiness preoccupies the minds of most of us. To a lucky few the phenomenon of a happy state of being is a routine thing, to some it is an occasional event and to others it seems more like an illusion. One thing is for certain; we all want a piece of it – we all wish for a life that is filled with joy and bliss.
In order to find something, you must know what you are looking for. Happiness is commonly defined as a subjective state of mental being, which can be defined by the experience of positive emotions. Following, the question arises – what path should you follow to attain this holy grail? As stated, happiness is subjective, so you might argue that this is different for everyone. What makes me happy does not necessarily make you happy. Also, happiness can be evoked by a countless number of things, situations and/or persons. Due to this, the road to happiness is not a clearly defined path.
Nevertheless, recent results from the Grant Study, a 75-year long Harvard Medical School study, show that we all have one common key component that brings us happiness: good relationships with others. We need social connections to stay healthy, both physically and mentally. Research has shown that people who live a more solitude life, are less healthy and less happy. Loneliness significantly increases the risk of mortality (Luo et al., 2012).
The study also emphasizes the importance of the quality of our relationships. Namely, the quantity of our relationships is less relevant, because shallow connections do not necessarily have a significant response. On the contrary, deep meaningful relationships have proven to have a positive effect on our ability to understand our emotions (Duquette, 2010). It is essential that we gain a clear insight into our emotions. This is due to the fact that it helps us to understand ourselves and it helps us to know what triggers our emotions. We are able to steer our emotions more competently, once we are aware of what evokes them. In order to find happiness, we must be aware of its cause.
Relationships are hard work and far from perfect. People are flawed and make mistakes. Building deep, meaningful relationships with others requires lots of time, energy, patience and perseverance. You have to open yourself up and you have to be willing to make compromises. And first and foremost, to some the most challenging endeavor, you have to be you. Relationships built on make-belief will not withstand in the long run. Luckily, no one is asking you to have it all right the first time, you are allowed to make mistakes – you’re human remember.
In order to truly find happiness, you have to do it your own way. So stay true to yourself and surround yourself with people who let you be you and/or give you the time and space to figure out who you are.
This is your life – this is your story to write.
Duquette, P. (2010). Reality matters: Attachment, the real relationship, and change in psychotherapy. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 64(1), 127–151
Luo, Y., Hawkley, L. C., Waite, L. J., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2012). Loneliness health and mortality in old age: a national longitudinal study. Social Science & Medicine, Advance online publication