What is the Secret of Happiness?

Mar 5, 2009 | Parenting

If you answered money, you’d be somewhat mistaken. Determining the secret to happiness has been a long, controversial topic and whoever comes up with the guaranteed solution will be richer than Gates! Mirko Bagaric has come up with his own solution. He has been researching happiness for many years, is a professor at Deakin University and the author of numerous books on the topic. Bagaric has developed a list of lifestyle habits that he believes leads to a much happier, fulfilled life. He might not have cracked the foolproof happiness code, but I think he is onto something. Do you practice most of his habits, or do you need a happy kick up the butt?

What makes people happy?

Bagaric has discovered what he calls a “happiness roadmap” These are the most common traits of the happiest people;

  • Having a fit and healthy body (surprise surprise!)
  • Realistic goals
  • Good self esteem
  • optimism
  • outgoing personality
  • a sense of control
  • close relationships
  • challenging work
  • Active leisure
  • adequate rest
  • a faith that entails communal support, purpose and acceptance

What about money?

Bagaric’s research has shown that once someone is above the poverty line, more money only makes a tiny difference to their happiness. When testing people in the ‘average’ income bracket, money made virtually no difference. What is interesting is that people in the top income bracket ($100k+) had only 12.7% saying they were completely satisfied versus the 21.2% in the lowest income bracket (0-$25K). I bet you know some people who are very well off but unhappy.

How do they test for happiness?

Scientists use brain imaging to scan the brain’s activity and separate the grumpy bums from the Pollyannas. The grumpy/distressed side of the brain (Amygdala and the right pre frontal cortex) fires up when people are distressed and quiets down when they are happy. This then shifts the brain activity into the left pre frontal cortex when people are happy. It is interesting to note that Buddhist monks have the furthermost positive left brain activity as their baseline, showing that they really do practice what they preach!

Are there constraints such as age, gender etc?

Age plays no part in predetermining happiness, people can have a sense of happiness at any age but gender can make a difference. Although men and women experience the same levels of happiness, women are more susceptible to depression. Relationships also play an important role with married couples noting more happiness than singles.

What can we do to have the best chance of happiness?

Firstly stop thinking that more money will solve your problems, and make you happy, it won’t! Take a long hard look at the list above and score yourself on a scale of 1-10 (poor -excellent) for each happiness trait. For the lower scoring traits, write down an action plan for how you are going to work on that area. For example if you feel your self esteem is low, what material are you going to read, how are you going to work on it?

If you scored poorly on everything, don’t get overwhelmed; just pick one trait at a time to work on. My suggestion (admittedly biased) is to get the fit and healthy trait under control, this will definitely lift the scores on other levels such as self esteem, active leisure, sense of control, and probably will lead to close relationships (even if it is with your trainer).

So when you think of taking on that second job, maybe you should focus on your happiness road map and pave the path to a happier more fulfilled existence.

Do you agree with Bagaric’s list? Have you experienced a shift in your happiness by following similar habits? I’d love to know about your happiness.

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