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Updated 31 January 2014

Learn to be happy

Would a lot of money and a good marriage make you happy? Not necessarily, say the experts. Circumstances don't have all that much to do with it.

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If you thought that a lot of money or a successful marriage brought happiness, think again. Research has shown that neither of these truly makes people happy. In fact, all the evidence points towards it having very little to do with other people or circumstances.

Down Under. A study done by Queensland University researchers in Brisbane, found that divorced, widowed and never-married women over 60 were happier than their married counterparts. Their findings fly in the face of consistent studies over the years that show married women as being happier than unmarried women. But the crux of the matter seems to be that the older single women had active lives and were anchored in the community, rather than the fact that they were without partners.

Good for your health. Medical research shows that being happy is good for your health. It is good for your heart, builds a strong immune system and provides people with a positive outlook in life, making them better equipped to deal with life's numerous disappointments and surprises.

Buy one, get one free. There are numerous products for sale that claim to elevate the mood and improve one's levels of happiness. From raising serotonin levels through exercise or eating chocolates, to herbal remedies like St John's Wort or even taking Vitamin B complex tablets. While all of these no doubt contribute to a general level of well-being, long-lasting happiness does not lie in a single solution.

Ask the profs. Professors of Psychology David Myers and Edward Diener found that though people think more money will make them happy, it actually does not. Americans' personal income had more than doubled between 1960 and 1990, though the percentage of people describing themselves as happy, had actually declined.

It's the non-material things that make people happy," according to Dr Vijai P. Sharma. The irony was that people spend all their time trying to make money, leaving little time to pursue those things which actually makes them happy.

Grocery list for happiness

  • Meaningful relationships
  • A satisfying job
  • Good health
  • Positive family life
  • Feeling appreciated/loved
  • Enjoyment of music/sports/hobbies

Are you happy? It would then appear as if the good doctors are challenging us to look at the above list and rate ourselves accordingly. Very few of us can say we have great relationships, a wonderful job and fantastic relations with our family - all at the same time. The trick is to start off small and see what can be changed. Perhaps all it takes is to make a phone call, send out a CV or take better care of yourself. Apologise to someone, take a friend to lunch, buy a child an ice cream. Give a little. It sounds a little too easy, doesn't it? But perhaps, it is worth a try.

(Pic: Happy, smiling woman from Shutterstock)

 
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