What is the secret to happiness? It’s a topic that gets a lot of attention and for good reason. Everyone wants to be some level of happy ~ But how to get there isn’t always talked about clearly and concisely. Let’s change that today! Author Colleen Doyle Bryant guest posts on four sources of happiness in life. Doyle Bryant has five books and several teaching resources on making good choices for the right reasons.
Sources of happiness: Guest post from Colleen Doyle Bryant
When will I just be happy? We often talk about happiness like it’s a destination, like once we get there, we’re on a sort of permanent vacation where it’s always sunny and there’s an endless supply of pool towels and fruity drinks. We might think, If I only had ____; or If only this one event would happen; or If only a certain event hadn’t happened… then I could be happy.
Here’s the problem with that line of thinking: Research consistently shows that things like money, marital status, occupation, neighborhood, ethnicity, age, and even the events that shape our childhood and adulthood have a small effect on our long-term happiness. When we finally get that thing, or achieve that change we’ve been waiting for, it might make us happy for a little while but the effects don’t last. The clouds eventually roll back in, the ice in our fruity drink melts, and we return to real life.
If you’re currently ripping up your 5-year plan (and maybe cursing under your breath), don’t worry. There’s good news in this revelation.
While lasting happiness doesn’t come from all those sources people tend to think it will, it is something we can create for ourselves. Looking at research on happiness, stress management, and life fulfillment, researchers consistently find that changing the way we think, feel, and engage with life can help us create our own happiness and sense of well-being. In the researchers’ results, four essential behaviors come up over and over again as the secret to creating a life well-lived.
Now here’s where it gets even more interesting: If we look at the world’s major enduring belief systems / religions and isolate what they say is the path to a good life, we’d find they recommend the same four core behaviors as those researchers we just talked about. Two paths, one through ancient philosophy and one through modern science, bring us to the same conclusion.
Four essential values that create well-being
Lasting happiness and well-being comes from choosing to live with four core values that guide our actions and decisions. We’re not talking about specific religious dictates here.
These are core human values that people have found are the essential behaviors for people to live well, together. They are how we connect with each other, form relationships based in trust, and cooperate so we can survive and thrive. Alright already, what are the four core values?
Being well starts with being honest. If we hope to achieve real well-being, we need to be willing to look at the things we’re proud of about ourselves and the things we really ought to work on.
We also need to honestly look at the world around us because when we believe what we want to believe, instead of what’s real, we may make choices that aren’t truly in our best interest. And finally, by being honest with other people—in our words, actions, and intent—they know we’re trustworthy. We become someone they value and want to connect with, so we can cooperate toward shared well-being.
The next pillar in these key values for well-being is about treating ourselves and others with care and dignity. We earn a sense of self-respect by looking at the evidence of our own actions, not by relying on external or false praise.
Self-respect comes from knowing we are a good person who is valued by others because we treat them and ourselves well. This sense of true self-worth steadies us through the ups and downs of life—because no matter what happens around us, we can be at peace with ourselves for how we handle it.
Life runs on relationships, and responsibility is how we manage the give and take that keeps our relationships healthy. We build positive relationships by acting responsibly—doing what’s needed and doing it with care—so that we uphold our end of the relationships.
Taking personal responsibility is how we know that we can make choices that impact our lives and the lives of others. We know we get to enjoy the praise that comes from the good outcomes we create, and we know we need to take the blame for the negative ones we create. That builds our agency—the sense that we have control over our own lives— which is an important force for good mental health.
Compassion is about helping each other through life’s hard times and reveling in the joys together. It’s a way of connecting on a human-to-human level, and it inspires us to confront pain in life, but to do it in a way that it actually helps. The positive side of compassion is also a great way to increase our opportunities to find joy and meaning with others.
Creating happiness happens in small moments throughout every day. By choosing to live with truth, respect, responsibility, and compassion, we build the self-respect that steadies us even when life is tumultuous. And we build the connections with other people that help us achieve our goals and enjoy the time we spend doing it.
About today’s writer on sources of happiness
Colleen Doyle Bryant is the author of Rooted in Decency, which looks at how today’s divisive culture is affecting us personally, and how resetting our core values can help us find inner peace even when the world feels sideways.
Do you have a good idea now of ways to become happier? What points resonated most with you in this guest post?