Happiness: it’s been endlessly written about, researched, been the theme of movies, and the promised goal of self-help seminars. Its pursuit is even written into the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
Happiness means different things to different people and in different situations. Being happy with your work is different than being happy in your marriage, or where you live. Viewing happiness as a fixed state makes achieving it unrealistic and ultimately frustrating. By nature, happiness ebbs and flows.
Parent happiness and personal happiness are not the same. When asked, “What makes you happy?” many parents will answer, “I’m happy as long as my kids are happy.” The problem is there is no way to ensure your kids are happy all of the time. Nor should they be. There are measurable benefits to kids experiencing a daily dose of problems they need to solve. Happy children develop confidence in their abilities to do this and come to view mistakes and setbacks as challenges, rather than as insurmountable.
Topping the list as the source of happiness is connection and relationships. A long term study known as the Harvard Study of Adult Development began looking at the correlation between happiness and health in 1938, during the Great Depression. The results have been undeniable: relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives. Family and communal ties help buffer life’s ups and downs, help to slow down mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes.
You can learn more about the study’s research and the results by watching Robert Waldinger’s, the current and fourth Director of the study, 2016 TED talk. Happy viewing!