I recently watched the Jan. 11th edition of 20/20 on the topic of happiness. It’s a really insightful show, I definitely recommend that you check it out. It basically raised the following questions: what makes us happy? and, can we control it?
Happiness seems to be the “white tiger” of our lives. The ever elusive secret that we can’t seem to fully comprehend. The vast majority of the people in North America would say they are either unhappy, or not very happy. In the 20/20 piece, it showed how in different parts of the world, people can be surprisingly happier than we are here, even if they have much much less. For example, impoverished families living on the streets of Bombay, India are technically happier than people living in California.
The happiest place in the world, is apparently Denmark. People in that country are very community oriented, and less reliant on material things. 92% of the population take part in some form of group activity, such as sports, acting, cooking, etc. Many of them choose biking over driving a car, and in general, they have completely de-emphasized all that is capitalist in their society. They are some of the highest tax payers in the world (over 60% of their income), yet they are happier than any other nation!
I think alot can be learned from this. Being an integral part of a group, of a society, and having the feeling of belonging to some type of organization is apparently key to finding happiness. Humans are social animals. We need to be around people to excel. And this is what is so wrong about what we witness here in North America. Over here, people are getting lonelier and lonelier. The only contact we have with people nowadays is via a computer, or a cell phone. If we don’t chat with them on the computer, we just send them a text message or a facebook message! There is less and less human interaction, which is crucial to fulfilling inner happiness.
Not only are we so lonely, we focus on the wrong things in search for the elusive happiness! We have such a strong focus on material and money in North America. This is why I enjoy taking trips abroad, because it disconnects me from this crazy reality we live in here, and puts things back into a better perspective. We are a society obsessed with money and being the one with the most material, the best looking one, etc. It’s a misconceived dream, one that simply can’t be fulfilled eventually.
The reason is simple. There will always be someone richer, someone with a bigger car, someone with a nicer house, and someone better looking. Trying to find happiness in these venues is impossible. Some people literally kill themselves with plastic surgery in hoping to get happier, all based on a twisted view of what happiness is supposed to be. So trying to find happiness with such superficial aspects of life is a recipe for disaster.
And this is what is happening. Combining the search for happiness via superficiality with the sheer loneliness that people are feeling these days, and you have the perfect mix for a life full of disappointments. Look all around you, this is what things have come down to. Happiness is not some complex secret that no one can decipher! We have made it this complicated because we are too stubborn to admit that our goals and our reality isn’t the most effective route towards a happier existence. Happiness is actually quite simple. Happiness lies in each other 🙂
So what can you do to inflict more happiness into your life? Do things that bring you closer with other people. Do things that make you interact with other like-minded individuals. Take a course, join a sports group, visit your family more often, spend more time playing with your kids, take the time to hang out with your friend more often, help others via volunteer work or simply the ones around you that need it. Get out there, step out of that world of loneliness. Technology can be great and convenient, but it cannot and it will never replace human interaction. See people face to face, talk to them in person, be present.
As well, realize that chasing after material wealth does not lead to a fulfilling life. I’m not saying don’t buy yourself anything anymore! Just don’t expect happiness out of superficial things in your life. For example, let’s say you gotta buy a car. Buy it because it will serve a purpose, not to impress others or to impress yourself. Don’t look for happiness in inert objects. Because these lifeless objects simply cannot provide this…that’s why they are inert! Look for happiness by building strong relationships with the people around you and then cultivate these relationships carefully. This can bring you more joy that you ever thought possible 🙂 I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!