Are you happy?
I notice in my own life, when people ask me “Are you happy?” I often don’t know what to say. I feel blessed, inspired, humbled, and often confused. I sometimes feel as though I am doing too much, sometimes not enough. I often feel overwhelmed by my shortcomings, and grateful for my loved ones, friends, teachers, and students. Am I grateful? Yes? Happy; I struggle with this question. I’m grateful to be able to struggle with this question.
I’ve enjoyed reading a terrific article in the June Atlantic Magazine, regarding a study that followed the lives of 268 Harvard students from the classes of 1942, ’43, and ’44 for more than 70 years. When asked what he learned from the experience, Dr. George Valliant, who conducted the study for more than 42 years, responded, “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships with other people.”
One finding of this study was that a person’s relationships predicted adjustment and happiness better than almost any other variable.
The study found that the major factors for a healthy life include: education, a stable marriage, not abusing alcohol, and regular exercise.
The study also showed that it’s not the events and difficulties that determine happiness, but rather how people respond to these events. Though this may sound obvious or almost a cliche, the study found that it was not enough to be aware of one’s defenses and shortcomings in responding appropriately. “Only with patience and tenderness might a person surrender his barbed armor for a softer shield.”
What’s to learn from this:
- Pay attention to your relationships. Give them the time, attention, and love they deserve.
- Create a life of regular learning; stretch yourself, learn new things, open your mind.
- Practice patience and tenderness.
So, are you happy?