What is it that makes us happy?
Those of us lucky enough to live in the Western world and enjoy the benefit of a secure roof over our heads, enough food to eat, some meaning in our work or cultural life and someone to love,who loves us back, – surely that’s enough; that’s what it takes to survive and be happy.
It seems, though, that we are driven to want more; the more we have, the more we want. So the promotion we get at work is soon forgotten and we become frustrated that we’re not moving up the ladder faster. We don’t enjoy what we’ve achieved; what we’ve achieved doesn’t make us happy because we already want more. This causes us stress and anxiety.
The handbag, car, or phone that we buy is thrilling for the first 24 hours but we soon see something else, maybe something that someone else has, that we want for ourselves. So what we think will make us happy, often falls short. It doesn’t necessarily follow that more – materially more – makes us happy. Wanting materially more, may actually make us unhappy.
Maybe it’s what touches our soul and our hearts that can offer real happiness. The giving and receiving of love is a key to happiness; in a simple form this could be a great conversation over a good cup of coffee with an old friend or making a good connection with a parent or grandparent. Investing time in relationships is more likely to bring us a sense of fulfillment and well being than more material goods.
What we do, our work, is key to giving meaning to our lives. Those without work are prone to depression. The Royal College of Psychiatrists states that after relationship difficulties, unemployment is most likely factor to push people to depression. Without the structure of the working day and the company of colleagues and the meaning this brings to our lives, we are not fulfilled and lose our sense of self-esteem.
Freud, the father of psychotherapy stated that it is a balance of love and work that can make us happy. To be loved and to be useful may then be the keys to a happier life – not the handbag or the next holiday.