We are told that money cannot buy happiness. Well, to anyone who has lived at least a few decades, we understand why. We also know that the lack of money will not buy happiness either. Having a certain amount of money keeps the bill collectors away and can at least keep one away from the misery of abject poverty. I back up my opinion by a study that found the ideal income for emotional well-being is somewhere between 60K to 75K USD. As a general rule of thumb, much less or considerably more takes a person out of the “Goldilocks spot”.
Another truism states that the foundation of happiness is to have good health. This is something I wholeheartedly agree with. It’s difficult, but not impossible, to feel happy when we are sick. Obviously, it is wise to maintain and preserve our health. If it is possible, improving our health is a smart thing to do. Also, with better health, we are better able to earn an income.
So we have at least two measurable criteria that can affect personal happiness. There are several other factors that may be optional, too. We learn early on that reasonably good family relationships and friendships can be great facilitators of happiness. There are creature comforts like having a good bed and clean sheets to help us get a good night’s sleep. How can one feel truly happy if one does not obtain sufficient rest?
A person might have all of the above benefits and more, yet still remain unhappy. When we observe self-identified happy people we notice that their happiness arises from within their minds. They tend not to depend on others to provide happiness and satisfaction. They have discovered the attributes of self-acceptance, moderation, good character, living honestly, not manipulating nor allowing themselves to be manipulated. Altogether, it is the continuous, sober pursuit of practical wisdom that is an important key to happiness.
My great-uncle Ivan used to laugh and rhetorically ask, “How can I be happier if I’m healthy, not in debt to anyone, and enjoy a clear conscience?” He enhanced his happiness through working in his big garden and sharing his produce with family and friends. He was a generous man but never made a show of being so. One of the phrases I most associate with Ivan is, “I don’t like to play show and tell.” My great-uncle possessed an earthy spirituality but was not fond of organized religion. He liked to say that his church is the great outdoors. Everyone who knew Ivan in any capacity felt thankful to be in his acquaintanceship circle. Most of the same qualities could be found in his wife, aunt Betty. She was one of the happiest women I’ve ever known. Her presence always lit up the room.
In my opinion, there are no better indicators of happiness than having a balanced mind without strong opinions; the lack of covetousness and envy; a merciful demeanor; and contentment with one’s basic nature. If one is able to live reasonably well with oneself, she/he is well along the path of pursuing happiness.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes a favorite novelist and poet, Hermann Hesse. “Happiness is a how; not a what. A talent, not an object.”