My big inquiry question is: What does it take to be happy?
This research round, I will focus on how our lifestyle and environment affects our happiness, and whether or not this is more important than your mindset.
Originally, I thought that most people can be categorized into 2 groups: those who those who believe that money is essential for happiness, and those who believe it isn’t needed. However, every person who answered my survey said that they thought that money affects your overall happiness. Many people defended their opinion by explaining that having money helps you avoid financial problems that can cause you to lose happiness. But does money in itself really make people happy? Or is it just the stability that having money brings into your life? A study done at the Binghamton University School of Management tackled these difficult questions, and concluded that there are two different views on money and happiness. The researchers called these two ideologies “success materialism” and “happiness materialism”.
- Happiness materialism is the belief that wealth and money is an indicator of a happy life
- This can be a problematic belief because it requires a lot of time and energy, which takes your focus away from things that may matter more (family, friends, health, etc.)
- Success materialism is the belief that wealth and money is an indicator of a successful life
- This can be a positive belief because it drives you to work harder and people tend to feel a sense of satisfaction with their life when seeing all they’ve achieved
The article also suggested that happiness increases with income only to a max. A study done at Princeton university concluded that your happiness will continue to grow with your income, until you reach $75,000 a year. After that, money won’t have much of an effect on your happiness, since you’ve already obtained enough money to satisfy your needs. In my opinion, this proves that although lacking money will have a negative effect on your overall happiness, gaining money itself doesn’t necessarily help you become happier. (1)
Even though this appears to be true, there are some other factors we need to consider. During my last round of research, I learnt that there are three levels of happiness: present moment happiness/ emotional wellbeing, life evaluation, and sense of purpose. It’s clear that money affects your present moment happiness, since the act of getting more money can be very exciting. So let’s imagine that you worked very hard, and you’re getting a raise. That would definitely make you happy in the moment, right? However, once you get use to having a bigger income, it becomes normal to you, and the effect wears off. Then, you may start working to get the next raise, or the next promotion, and you’d be right back at square one. So when it comes to your life evaluation, we can assume that you still won’t be satisfied. It’ll always seem like there’s more you can get. Based on these assumptions, can we assume that your overall happiness didn’t improve at all throughout all this? Further more, since you’ve spent all this time and effort in ensuring you reach a certain level of income, it’s likely that you’ve neglected other aspects of your life that can bring happiness, such as friends and family.
Another factor that may affect happiness is your health and live expectancy. Based on data collected by the world happiness report, countries with higher life expectancies are generally more happy overall (2). Interestingly enough, it isn’t necessarily the seriousness of illness that determines how much your happiness is affected. The more your illness changes how you live your life, the more it negatively impacts your happiness. You could have a fatal disease and be overall happier than someone with a bowel problem, which really puts things into perspective. (3)
In my survey, I also asked people whether or not religion plays a part in how they view happiness. Although everyone who took the survey answered that it doesn’t, I do think that it might play a bigger role in other cultures and countries than it does here in Canada. After a bit of research, I found out that religion is linked to happiness in less economically developed regions that are more conservative. Based on certain studies, we can conclude that people living in stressful environments use religion as a way to cope and give themselves hope. Religion also often requires people to gather together and be part of a group, which increases social interaction, thus increasing happiness levels as well. In Romania, where my parents are from, religion is considered to be at the core of happiness. It is said that without religion, you can never truly be happy, so I never realised how different things are here in Canada. (4)
Personal experiences – survey results
Although there is a lot of research done about happiness and how to achieve it, I decided to conduct my own survey and see what other students thought about this topic. Other than the ones mentioned already, there are a couple survey questions that are relevant to this round of research.
What is your ideal lifestyle and do you think that it will make you happy?
I received a variety of answers to this question, but most ideal lifestyles consisted of following your passions, working a job you enjoy, being surrounded by people who care about you, and helping others. Everyone said that they believe that this lifestyle will bring them happiness, which wasn’t surprising. This leads me to believe that my generation believe that happiness is strongly affected by external factors, rather than mentality. This claim is also supported by the fact that everyone answered that they believe that money directly affects happiness.
Are you happy in your current life? If so, why?
Everyone answered that they are happy in their current life, and a couple people chose to elaborate. They stated that they are happy in their lives because they understand how privileged they are to live in a stable, developed country and to have passions and people they care about. It seems like everyone who took the survey has a generally positive outlook on their lives, and are pretty satisfied with their lives so far. Which is great, but I wonder if it’s really possible for everyone to be so optimistic and positive about the way we live here. Yes, we have it way better here than in other places, and I do acknowledge how privileged I am to grow up here. However, if we refrain from comparing our lifestyles with the lifestyles of other people, we would be better able to evaluate our own lives based on our own standards. Instead of deciding that we have reached happiness just because we are better off than people who are less fortunate, I think it’s best to take a step back and ask yourself what YOU want from your life. With that being said, is it even possible to achieve full happiness? Or will there always be something better that we’ll be chasing? In my final round of research, I will look into this, and answer my big question: “What does it take to be happy?”