While watching “Orange is the New Black” I was struck by the unhappiness, the emptiness in most of the characters’ lives. I know it’s just a movie but I am also keenly aware that books and movies are often based on real life experiences. This got me to thinking about happiness. What makes a person happy? I got out a pen and paper and quickly jotted down the things that make me happy I say quickly because I wanted my response to be spontaneous. The truth often reveals itself in spontaneity. Then I reached out to my friends and my Facebook contacts. I asked them to do the same, not dwell for a long period, but to answer spontaneously. The mixed results of mixed respondents were somewhat surprising, profoundly humbling, but singularly focused. Here’s what I learned:
Not once was Money, Job Security, Personal Success mentioned. But here’s what was overwhelmingly deemed important:
Family is Crucial
Elderly, middle aged, and young respondents all spoke of family being the thing that made them happiest. Family encompassed a large group of people including spouses, children, grandchildren, and extending outward to parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Not a few, but every person that indicated the importance of family, did so with a passion in the things they wrote. Family togetherness was key in the happiness factor. No matter the age of the respondent, enjoying the growth, accomplishments, and successes of their children and grandchildren played a role in their own happiness as did simply hearing the unadulterated laughter and happiness of their children.
Although on the surface, this might not be surprising, I was struck by the fact that no matter where a person was in the journey of life, family still came first and their happiness added to the happiness of the responder.
Grandkids and the joy they bring was one of the most often repeated claims. Given the fact that only about a third of responders actually had grandchildren, they were named unanimously as the greatest source of happiness.
I put Pets in the family category because, well, Pets are people too, and pets definitely make people happy. Whether or not they really are family, pets fill a void, enhance one’s health, lift depression, are oftentimes more loyal than human counterparts. Pets bring happiness.
Friends Make People Happy
Friends and the fun times they share, the memories they make, the comfort they bring, ranked second in the happiness factor. Friends had a clear connection with laughter. Not as many men responded as did women but when they did respond, they equated happiness with friends in general, followed by getting together with the guys for a few drinks. Women, on the other hand, shouted out that girlfriends made them happy.
While it may seem that helping others adds more work and possibly more stress to another’s life, it was named several times as a cause for happiness. In fact, those that mentioned helping others are deeply committed to such goodness often at their own expense. So, while the commitment to help is difficult, the feeling of satisfaction gained brings a lasting joy to the giver.
Connecting With Nature
There were many references to different aspects of nature which brought happiness to the individual but suffice it to say that a walk in the woods, a swoosh down the slope, a day at the beach basking in the sun all bring happiness which leads to…
Peace & Tranquility
Who doesn’t long for peace and tranquility? And when you have it, doesn’t it make you happy? In our fast paced lives, a day of quiet boredom, that allows you to simply “be,” is the most luxurious feeling.
I could have combined music with dancing or fitness but truthfully, music belongs in each of these happiness descriptors. Music brings friends and family together in happy ways. The rustle of leaves, a gust of wind, the silence of falling snow, the rush of waves, or a babbling brook, a bird’s song, and the rat-a-tat-tat of pouring rain are all music to the one who enjoys the peace and tranquility of nature. Music to love and cuddle to and music to work out or dance to are the tools of a lover or a fitness junkie. Who among us doesn’t like to pump up the volume while cooking or cleaning? And in times of travel isn’t music the thing that speaks the same language? So, while music is happiness in and of itself, it is also the universal bridge builder.
Love and Cuddling
Being able to cuddle with a loved one, our children, our grandchildren brings a warm satisfaction and through that touch we are assured that we are loved and that we love.
Fitness & Dancing
The release of stress, the ability to break free of our “guarded” exteriors, to let loose and move freely in dance produces endorphins. Endorphins alone are the reason that fitness and dancing make us happy.
To see other places, faces, people, and things through a new lens gives travel the allure of happiness.
Clean & Orderly Home
And here we are back to Peace and Tranquility, for when our house is in order, “All is Right With the World.”
To sum it all up, find some common ground like a park or the beach to connect with nature. Travel there to meet up with your family and friends. Pump up the music and help one another to unwind. Share some laughter. Get fit while you dance. BE HAPPY! When the day is done, return to your nuclear families and enjoy some peace and tranquility in your clean and orderly homes.
What things would you add to the list of things that make you happy? Please share your comments below.