Wouldn’t life be easy if happiness was literally a recipe?
It’d be something like, smile nine times at strangers, do five acts of kindness, and laugh at least seven times. Double the recipe if you’re serving happiness to more than one person.
But happiness doesn’t work like that, even the 40% of our happiness that we have control over, according to Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky. Happiness is affected by the moment.
That doesn’t mean we don’t need to develop happiness habits, but even those are dependent on the moment. Currently I take my dog Tater on what I call my morning gratitude walk when we first wake up and that makes me quite happy. But this past Sunday it was raining so we postponed the walk because a wet me with a wet and muddy dog would not equal happiness.
This brings me to two stories I recently read about our attempts to measure happiness. The first is a recent Harris Poll that announced only 1 in 3 Americans is “very happy”, which was a decrease from the previous poll. If you’re polling me and ask if I’m very happy, it’ll completely depend on what day and what time you ask. The fact that 1 in 3 Americans is very happy is a pretty awesome number. Very happy is a high degree of happiness. Some people are simply happy being content and that’s happy enough for them. What didn’t make the headlines is how many people are mostly happy. You know just your run of the mill average happy.
That was followed by an op-ed piece I saw in the newspaper, Money and Power Don’t Buy Women Happiness, by columnist Kathleen Parker. All I could think was “no duh,” because those things aren’t a recipe for happiness for men or women. No one is happy being in a vault, literal or self-imposed, with money. And how often do you hear the cliché “it’s lonely at the top?” Power has both advantages and disadvantages for both men and women.
In recent years we’ve tried to make happiness a measurable experience. But it’s just not. We do need certain necessities to be happy. But otherwise our degree of happiness is subjective to many things. Did you ever have the perfect date, then tried to recreate it? You can’t. You may have another great date, or better than last time date, but it won’t be the exact same date or reach the same levels of perfection. How we feel about something is about that moment.
Ultimately, the recipe for happiness is a little like the soup you make when you just throw stuff in the pot, taste it, make some spice adjustments and then let it simmer. Happiness is found in the moment, not in specific ingredients.
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