What is happiness?
In June 1997, Billie Harrell, an employee of Home Depot in a small town outside of Huston, Texas, won the lottery. He won 31 million dollars. He was incredibly religious. All of his life he struggled to financially support his wife and kids.
In July, he drove to Austin to pick up a 1.24 million dollar check, the first one out of 25 that he was about to receive over the next 25 years. He bought a big farm and horses. He put money on the side to finance his kids’ college education. He purchased houses for family members and friends. He donated money to the church he used to attend.
Two year later, he locked himself in his bedroom, pressed the barrel of a gun to his chest and pulled the trigger.
A close person of Billie said that Billie had told him, “Winning the lottery is the worse thing that could have happened to me”.
The happiness of a human is a very confusing topic and there has been extensive research to solve this puzzle.
Studies that explored different cultures, different geographical locations, dangerous places such as locations of natural disasters, war areas, high income, low income and in poverty showed that people had similar levels of happiness.
“So if different cultures and locations or socio economic level don’t influence happiness, what does?”
“What makes us experience happiness on a regular basis?”
A study by the psychologist Dan Gilbert found that no matter what events in life a person has had (car accidents, winning money in the lottery, getting divorced, having a first child), after a while, the level of basic happiness will go back again to what it was before the good or bad event.
What is your basic level of happiness? Is it high or low? Studies have shown that every person has a different level of basic happiness. They also found that people cannot change their level of basic happiness due to life experiences (external events).
So if a job with high income, fame, buying a new shiny car or a hot lover can influence can’t change the basic level of happiness, what can? How can you change your personal level of happiness?
Beyond genetics, the secret that set the basic level of happiness is the SENSE OF CONTROL OF OUR LIVES. Once a person FEELS his/her faith or destiny is in their own hands and under their control, that they are responsible for their lives and the result is that they are much happier. It doesn’t matter how much they make or where they live; their basic level of happiness in their daily lives is higher.
You can be rich, famous and successful, but if you feel you didn’t have control of getting there, if you didn’t earn this place, if you feel you don’t deserve it – your basic level of happiness will be low.
Now you can finally understand why so many celebrities get addicted to drugs and alcohol and commit suicide. On another hand, you can be belong to the middle class, have an average income, but as long as you have the sense of control on your destiny, that you make decisions and direct your life, the basic level of happiness will be higher. There are so many examples of people who live in third world countries under complete famine, but they are truly happy in their daily lives.
Besides the great, meaningful research, here’s, in short, my three perspectives on happiness:
1. Gratitude – appreciate all the little things and the big things you have – even bad experiences. They only make you stronger, you grow better and improve as a human being.
2. Having a positive perspective on life events – events are meaningless; what gives them the power is the way you perceive them. Instead of looking at life events and people in a negative way, ask yourself, “What’s good about it”?
3. Creation – this is the most important thing – create things of your own. Creation for me is to exist, to fulfill your being in this world. It is the creation of something you love, something you’re passionate about – it could be cooking, developing, designing, creating a business, connecting among people. Everything you love and create will give you a great feeling of meaning and happiness.