(a 12 minute read)
First of all, it should be noted that there are cultural differences in the definition of happiness and that it is assigned different values. Furthermore, it is normal to experience the whole spectrum of emotions including sadness, anger, frustration but also satisfaction, purpose and happiness. Sometimes we feel like the world comes crashing down on our heads and although something positive happens, we can’t quite reach that same level of the inner peace that we achieved prior.
Why Is That?
It’s all in our heads.
There are six basic emotions that are triggered in sudden situations that ensure our survival, our health and our well-being.
This happens subconsciously in the limbic system of our brain, meaning we have no direct control over our feelings. There is only the possibility to adapt our behavior and attitude to these feelings.
Overall there are two positive emotions: happiness and interest.
The four negative emotions are fear, anger, sadness and disgust. These areas take up more space in the brain because they are more important for survival, so it is perfectly normal to feel these emotions frequently.
The most crucial part of this finding is that you should consider them all as neutral. Emotions serve as a compass and show you the direction in which you should best navigate.
In East-Asian countries, Japan or Russia for example, it is much more welcome to admit sadness and talk about it. These people are in great health, live fulfilling lives and interact with their surroundings with great curiosity. In western countries, things look a bit different regarding the expression of feelings. Especially when it comes to masculinity, there’s this stigma in society that immediately condemns men who show and communicate deep emotions. They are often being regarded as “depressed” although that might not be the case at all. It is this fear of feeling this way that makes a person perish, not the feeling itself. To not be afraid of these feelings, but to welcome them, makes you stronger in the long run.
When you are about to cry, it is not wrong to enhance that feeling and listen to a sad song. You reduce stress and tension as a result.
However, there are of course different classifications, chronic feelings of loneliness and depression are to be taken seriously in any case. In these cases, it’s best to seek professional help.
What Makes Me Happy?
Social scientists often recommend that measures of subjective well-being should complement standard measures of economic well-being, such as GDP per capita.
But how can happiness be measured?
In principle, it can be said that suicide rates, depression and listlessness are higher in first-world countries, even though they have a better standard of living. The higher this standard, the harder it is to find “hope”. What do you hope for when you are actually doing quite well?
Not too far back in the day, it was pretty clear: peace, no famine, good health, no violence, etc.
Today, things are more complex, people perceive many things as huge unsolvable problems or create scenarios for themselves that would not be worth dealing with at all. Helplessness and constant search for purpose is a huge problem in today’s society and it probably wasn’t that present 200 years ago. Since the human mind is flawed, be it emotionally or rationally, almost everything we create is also flawed. Through such incidents hope is created — the hope to solve this, to improve it. But at the same time, the solution will be faulty again. That’s why it is most important to hope for certain values like respect, courage and love instead of things.
To find out what you’re truly passionate about and to maybe even find your own purpose (every person defines that individually) you have to try things.
Ikigai is loosely translated as “that which is worth living for,” “the joy and purpose of life,” or casually put, “the feeling of having something worth getting up for in the morning.”
In Japanese culture, the often lengthy and thorough self-exploration involved in the pursuit and search for Ikigai has important significance. It is an exceedingly personal process and the result can therefore vary greatly from individual to individual. When a person finds or has his or her Ikigai, it brings about him or her a feeling of joy in life and thus inner satisfaction. You divide your potential goals into four sections.
- What I am good at?
- What I enjoy.
- What serves the world and its people.
- What makes me money.
Then you select the skills or interests that overlap and you will eventually end up with some final results. Then, once again, it’s completely up to you to decide which path is worth pursuing further.
Become comfortable being uncomfortable, take risks, talk to strangers and be curious in your pursuit of the meaningful. Being self-aware and having a healthy balance between work and free time is the key to variety in our lives. Every action and decision you make should be motivated to improve lives.
Also, jealousy is often regarded as an overall bad emotion but if you start to ask yourself “what am I jealous of?” more frequently you’ll find out what you really want to do.
What Do The Statistics Say?
Richer countries with economic growth tend to have higher average self-reported life satisfaction than poorer countries that are comparable in demographics and other measurable characteristics.
Countries, where people tend to live longer, are also countries where people tend to be more likely to report that they are satisfied with their lives.
That’s the same if people feel a sense of freedom to make decisions about their lives and take control of them.
Basically, it can be stated that community, health, freedom, social contacts and meaningfulness of existence are decisive factors for happiness.
When we feel we have more control over our lives, we tend to be happier, healthier and more optimistic about the future. This could also help explain the gap between individual and societal optimism: Since we directly control our own lives, but not the fate of the nation, we are more optimistic about ourselves.
Other reasons for pessimism about the world are ignorance and collective illusions created by corporations or society itself. Currently, we live in a society where collective illusions may be the defining characteristic.
These are situations where most people in a group share a view with which they disagree because they mistakenly believe that most people agree with it. It’s not just a matter of getting a few people wrong. It’s about the majority believing something they don’t believe.
In a recent study by Populous people were asked how they define a successful life and I will go a little deeper into that survey late on. For now, it’s only necessary to know that most people chose “Fame” among 75 other attributes. There is only one problem. In private life, it is actually on the last place.
It is in 76th place out of 76 possible attributes.
We don’t care about fame, but we believe that most others care more about fame than anything else, so that’s why we attribute importance to it.
Our public institutions are built on a false idea of what people want out of life. In our media, in our companies, these people are subject to exactly the same illusions, So obviously it’s hard to find what’s most important to you.
What’s also interesting:
The majority of people — 52% — believe that the percentage of people living in extreme poverty is increasing. The opposite is true. In fact, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty worldwide has been declining for two centuries, and in the last 20 years, this positive trend has been faster than ever before. Child mortality rates are also declining among other important factors.
Widespread ignorance about these crucial changes in the world leads to a general dissatisfaction about how the world is changing
According to this survey, only 3% of citizens in France and Australia believe that the world is getting better. And again, it shows that in poorer countries, the percentage of people who answer positively is higher. In China 40%, and in Indonesia 23% say yes it is getting better.
How Do I Proceed With This Knowledge?
Populous asked what does a fulfilling life mean to you? What they found was really astonishing.
Out of those 76 trade-off priorities, in the thousands and thousands of people that we have studied, no two people we’re identical. Nobody can tell you what a successful life is. You have to discover that for yourself. It’s about knowing who you are. If you want to understand whether the people you care about are pursuing a life that’s not their own, ask them why they care about what they’re doing. Why do you want to be famous? Having your ideas challenged gives you a better sense of who your true self is. If we recognize our true shared values, it fundamentally changes how we see one another. We now recognize that investing in each other and enabling you to pursue the life you want to live, is actually better for you and for me.
Allowing painful emotions is important, but then how do we cultivate pleasant ones?
Above all, with the feeling of gratitude.
When we appreciate the good in our lives, we automatically cultivate more of it. So happiness is much more than pleasure, it’s wholeness.
Reorder your life into three main categories: Work, Private Life, and Love.
Define for yourself what personal success might look like in each of these parts of life and then continue to steadily work towards achieving it. On your way, make sure to follow well-thought-out principles and values so you don’t lose yourself in this rapidly changing work.
Gratitude is the ultimate remedy for dissatisfaction. Your attitude and thoughts are what dictate your life. Optimism is the active way, being open to new things, being open-minded is the passive way.
Live the moment to the fullest and seek deep friendships and relationships.
Basically, do something with all the means at hand in the place you are in.