As a clinical psychologist I am often faced with a client whose goal is to “just be happy.” Similarly, as a mental game coach, aka sports psychologist, my clients come to me and many have lost confidence on the field or court and want to find it again.
It sounds simple, but the truth is: whether it is happiness or confidence, everyone’s needs for achieving it are unique.
Everyone’s needs for achieving happiness or confidence are unique.
What makes one person happy in the moment (like a pony, a great meal, a new car) may have little bearing on my or your mood. And, what’s more, those things tend to be fleeting. A pony starts to smell, a great meal gets digested and a new car is no longer new, pretty much as soon as you drive it off the lot.
So what does contribute to true happiness? Interestingly enough, two enormous studies were done measuring people on a variety of metrics over the course of 7+ decades: the Harvard Grant Study (1939) and the British Birth Cohort Studies (beginning 1946; the most recent one was done early 2000s). The multiple terabytes of data from both studies are clear:
Happiness is love.
When we love others and feel loved by others we have the best chance of being and staying happy. This is an important point, in particular, during this era of extreme consumerism, where every advert is convincing us that we will be a better, more complete and desirable human being if we purchase the latest ‘fill in the blank.’
As a psychologist, both sports and clinical, I see my young clients struggling with just these very issues. If they don’t win or get the latest iPhone then they believe they will be lost, rendered unimportant to the world around them.
As we find ourselves hunkered down, sheltering at home, it might be a good time to revisit what actually creates happiness.
Geraldine Garcia of N. Western Ave., an au pair from Columbia, credits time with her family for her happiness. Angelica Gomez, also a Columbian au pair, who lives on Tyrell Ave. gets her fulfillment from doing things she is passionate about. And Alejandra Valles, of Mexico and now resident of Meacham Ave., is convinced it’s her love of ice cream that makes her happy.
But perhaps they forgot to note who they were doing those things with, or with whom they were eating ice cream. That might have been the spark.
While we can’t physically be with everyone we love right now. We can connect. Phone, text, video calls (with Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, WhatsApp and others) are all things we can do today. And as we brighten someone else’s day, we brighten our own.
As the research affirms.