How To Be Happy

What actually makes people happy

There's certainly no formula. When we created this test, we researched what the professionals considered was important to create happiness. A few common themes came up but really these are quite obvious. Particularly the concept that happiness comes from within and a positive thinking 'I will be happy' approach can make all the difference.

Friends & Family

What's important here is not the quantity of friends (or indeed family which can be a little harder to control). What's important is the quality of the friendship and/or the closeness of the family. Humans are not solitary creatures. We need the company of others to get through the day. The definition of 'quality' is a little more difficult though.

There's plenty of evidence that the strength of friendship of family and friends can signficantly boost happiness levels. On the flip side, there's plenty of evidence that it can work the other way. In the same way that there's a correlation between closeness and positive friendship, there's also a correlation between closeness and a negative friendship. In short, if you are have a bad time with someone close to you, then it can have a very strong impact on your happiness levels.

It is often quoted that the three most stressful events in your life are death of a partner, divorce or marital separation. Clearly, a death is outside a person's control but what makes divorce and marital separation have such an impact on your happiness levels is that you are, to an extent, involved and in control of proceedings. However, the approach a person has to relationships at all stages reflects within our levels of happiness.

Money

There's a lot of debate on this one. There's no question that most people think that winning the lottery will make them happy. However, there's very little relationship between the amount of money someone has and their happiness levels. There's a connection between a lack of money and being unhappy but once food and health are taken care of - the rest is up for grabs.

One aspect that arises regularly is the relationship between a person's level of income and other people's level of income. For example, if everyone had a bicycle then nobody would be jealous that someone had a car. But once one person has a car then a level of unhappiness creeps into those that don't.

Much research has been done on the way that people working within a company view their salary. The amount of money a person earns by themselves is far less important to most people than how much they earn relative to others. A business where there are large variations in salary levels is likely to ultimately be less stable and experience higher levels of staff turnover than a more level approach to pay.

Much of this can be attributed to a consumer society where people are presented with the concept that material possessions bring happiness. But many psychologists believe that there's a natural human instinct to want to grow and do better. However, there's also an inbuilt feeling of fairness in most people. And it's the feeling that someone else is progressing unfairly can create the most substantial negative impact on someone's happiness.

Work

There's clear evidence that environment, such as a stressful workplace, can make people unhappy. But that's not as clear cut as it sounds. A stressful work environment doesn't directly equate to unhappiness. A work environment where talent isn't recognised or skills utilized can be more stressful. However, that's not always the case and it's often the amount of effort that an employee puts into the job that has more reflection on happiness levels.

There is a clear train of thought that making a difference - whatever that may be - in the workplace contributes to happiness. The feeling at the end of the day that something was achieved, created or made better.

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Much of this can be related to the 'I am happy' approach where the idea that you put more into the work to get more out.

Being happy within yourself - 'I Am Happy'

Strangely, there also seems to be a general concept of reflective happiness. In effect, saying to yourself that you are happy creates a response within that you are happy. Clearly, conversely, a mindset that you are not happy creates unhappiness.

It's not easy but essentially, it's all about positive thinking. The ability to reflect on things in a positive way. To appreciate the things that you have got rather than the things that you haven't (or that other people have). There's a classic statement in modern life when someone rich (and/or famous) comes out and says they are not happy. The typical response is one that 'sure, being a millionaire must be so difficult'. However, the fact is that having material possessions doesn't directly equate to happiness.

The ability to appreciate what you have - even if that's just that morning coffee - can create the most powerful feelings of happiness.