Want to be Happy?
When I work with new clients I typically ask them about their goals for therapy. One of the most common replies I get is “I want to be happy”. Sounds reasonable, right? But when I ask them to define what happiness is, they have difficulty describing what it means to them.
How many times have you told yourself you will be happy if you get in a certain relationship or get the job you wanted? If you’re like most of us, probably lots of times. But when you did get what you thought you wanted, how long did the feeling of “happiness” last? Probably not very long. Why is that?
One of the traps in tying the notion of being happy if we attain some kind of external object or experience is that they are impermanent. They don’t last. Romantic relationships end. Cars break down. We lose our jobs. Things we once couldn’t live without now don’t interest us. As such, we are doomed if we believe something external can really make us happy over the long term.
So what does being happy actually entail then?
In the world’s longest scientific study of happiness, Harvard University found out that one thing stood out among the healthiest and happiness of the participants. What do you think it was?
Making lots of money? No.
Being famous? No.
Having a successful career? No.
The one factor that stood out among all others was having good relationships.
It’s not necessarily about being married or living with someone, since people can be lonely in a marriage and thrive by living alone. But it’s important to have friends and loved ones you can talk with and rely on.Dr. Robert Waldinger, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
According to Dr. Waldinger, “Really, what you need is somebody in your life who you can call on. In fact, we asked our study participants: Who could you call in the middle of the night if you were sick or scared? Some of our folks could list several people, and some of our folks couldn’t list anyone — not a soul in the world.”
So, if you want to be happy, the results of this study encourage you to work on developing warm relationships with others. These relationships help us manage the stresses of life and improve our feeling of well-being.