October 6, 2016 by Cláudia
What does make a good life? Success? Money? Lots of Friends? Is there really a list of things that put together mathematically make a good life? What is a good life?
I came up with a list of ingredients for happiness and had to put them in order. Check out my last post for the full list. The post was meant to ask the readers for their opinion and views on happiness and about whether we could tackle some kind of formula for a happy life (please feel free to comment about that even now).When I had to think and organize a list of predefined conditions these were the ones that I felt would most be associated with happiness (note that I hadn’t just to think of my own personal life but of what would be a good life for everyone):
2- Good Relationships
3- Values, Principles and Morals
5- A Healthy Lifestyle
6-An Interesting Job
There was plenty of discussion around this and I don’t mean this to be in any way consensual or definite.
A lot of people had “Lots of Money” in the top five and no one agreed with me about having “Self-Esteem” first. A lot of people had Good Relationships in first, though.
First of all, I would like to explain why “Lots of Money” doesn’t appear on my list whatsoever. Lots of money implies more that what is needed, in fact, it implies way more that necessary. Contrarily to common belief, there is absolutely no evidence that money can buy happiness. Studies show that material goods bring a brief sensation of well-being but when it passes, unhappiness returns. Up to a certain threshold, money is vital to survival and therefore happiness is unavailable without it. A bit more money that just the necessary brings happiness also because it gives the possibility of comfort and leisure. But it reaches a point where money cannot give any more happiness. Money is solely a means and not an end. Most people don’t realize how valueless money is, how empty of meaning it is, as it only matters as a trading mechanism – it only has value because we said it does. Seeing money as some sort of happiness and well-being milestone, a majority of people aim to become rich as a way of fulfillment. Money, and the things that can be bought with money, are like a quick fix. And quick fixes rebound quickly, they do not bring us happiness in the long run. Then we’re left with a void of what really matters.
Self-Esteem is, to me, the basis of happiness – happiness can’t be reached without it. A lot of people said “I would rather have x than self-esteem.” or “I don’t have a great self-esteem and I’m happy”. Well, self-esteem doesn’t mean to think you’re the greatest, but rather to have a realistic perception of yourself – both qualities and flaws, to appreciate your actions and to take good care of yourself, doing things that make you feel good physically and emotionally. Without it, whatever you do you will be unhappy as you don’t value or believe in yourself. Self-esteem is fluid, it doesn’t always stay at one level. It gets affected when things don’t go your way. Toxic thoughts harm it. It’s a struggle. But it’s the first step towards happiness.
I will explore further the importance of self-esteem on my next post (Why is Self-Esteem so Important?).
An Harvard Study tracked the lives of 724 men for 75 years to find out what is the key for happiness. They found out the most obvious yet revolutionary answer – good relationships keep us happy and healthy. They explored the dangers of isolation and encouraged people to pursue genuine connections with other people, stressing that it is quality that matters over quantity. I agree. But before we try to have good relationships with other people, I think we should pursue a good relationship with ourselves – and that’s self-esteem. We can have so many great things in our lives but still feel unhappy and devalued. We can have amazing people around but not being able to connect because we lack self-love.
Values, Principles and Morals are what gives our life direction. Without them, we are just making random choices or following the crowd. They (luckily!) change over time, with new information and with our growth as individuals. They are what defines us, what gives meaning and purpose to our lives.
Curiosity, on the other hand, keeps us interested in living. It makes us excited to live another day and find out new things, meet new people. A feeling of being a child and discovering the world over and over again. Not being curious is really a sign of giving up. Of uninterested apathy.
A Healthy Lifestyle is truly an act of self-love: to take care of our bodies and minds the best we can and assure we feel good. I did smoke for some years and never thought of it as such a bad thing as it really is – to slowly inflict me pain and illness. To live listening to our bodies and feeling so much better for it – truly a blessing.
An Interesting Job is unfortunately not always possible, however it is so important to find something that we enjoy in all we do and to pursue the thing that most makes us happy. There is nothing I understand less than someone miserable in a job he/she hates just because it pays well when having another better option.
This is all very subjective, though. I would love to hear your opinions.
Also, here’s the Harvard study I talked about earlier: