As the trend toward bigger houses, more expensive cars and the accumulation of more and more stuff continues, we are compelled to ask the question: Does this incessant quest for materialistic possessions make us happier? We all have the same basic needs consisting of food, clean water, clothing, and adequate housing, but when these needs are met, it seems that extra money, wealth and material gain have very little to do with living a happy life.
Standards of living are up. Why aren’t people happier?
One of the reasons is because of our tendency to adapt to happiness. We tend to experience pleasure in short little bursts that wear off rather quickly. We buy a candy bar and experience pleasure for a few minutes. We buy a new outfit and are pacified for a few hours or a few days. Another reason has to do with keeping up appearances and how we compare ourselves to one another. It seems that regardless of how much material wealth we possess, we become happier when we choose to compare ourselves with other people who possess less than we do and we become unhappier when our comparison is made with those who have more.
Is Happiness Hereditary?
At one time, behavioral scientists thought that people had a “set point” for happiness that was largely determined by our genes coupled with the way that we were reared by our parents – the influence of “nature” and “nurture”. While these elements definitely play a role in happiness levels, we understand now that there are some other key factors that can be controlled and manipulated to increase happiness levels.
So what makes us happy?
Experts agree that there are many aspects of life that can contribute to a lifetime of happiness.Marriage is an important element in determining happiness. Research indicates that just being married can make you a happier person. Married people are not only happier but they live longer too. Spirituality is an essential component to sustaining happiness. Believing in and being connected to something larger than you is very fulfilling to humans. Spirituality also represents the search for and the connection to life beyond human existence. Deep relationships with family and friends will add a significant amount of enjoyment and happiness to life. Experts also believe that the immune system is strengthened by the acquisition of meaningful friendships. It is a well known fact that stress negatively affects health by lowering immunity. In this same way, close relationships with family and friends can have a protective effect.
There is evidence that confirms that richer nations are happier overall than poorer nations. What that tells us is that, although money cannot buy happiness, it can buy the necessities of life like food, clothing and shelter. Beyond that, wealth has little to do with happiness. Having a partner to go through life with as well as forming and maintaining meaningful relationships with family, friends and God is the key to living the good life.