Aristotle claimed that happiness is the ultimate purpose in life. Finding happiness, especially during retirement, means different things for different people.
After reading Gretchen Rubin’s inspiring book The Happiness Project I have thought about the meaning of happiness — especially the meaning of happiness during retirement. I’ve also tried applying some of her tips to my postworksavvy lifestyle. Gretchen’s year-long quest for happiness has inspired many others to develop their own happiness projects. Both her book and her website http://www.happiness-project.com give many tips for finding and monitoring your own happiness.
The pursuit of happiness has become a big money-making industry. Bookshelves and websites abound with advice on how to achieve authentic happiness. Certainly, thinking about and understanding what makes you happy can help you to improve your own state of happiness. Using some of the recommended techniques can also energize your life.
The popular media espouses that happy people are healthy people. This may or may not be so. If having good health is a state of mind, then a happy state of mind will help to achieve a state of better health — at least better mental health. Perhaps positive emotions are related to health but there is no proof that happy people are more physically healthy, For the postworksavvy, a positive approach to life — if it helps with happiness or not — has a payoff. A positive outlook just makes getting through each day easier.
Another myth is that happy people are more creative. But is creativity related to happiness? Or is it related to other traits such as fluidity of thought, pursuit of varied experiences, education, training, and novelty? Creativity can lead to happiness but whether happiness leads to creativity is unknown.
Perhaps the biggest myth related to happiness is that money will make you happier. There is certainly a connection between money and happiness. But after attaining the necessities of life — including some of the needs that modern society has deemed essential — there are few real happiness gains from having more money. Recent research by Ipsos Reid published in the Toronto Star indicates that having debt makes people unhappy — even wealthy people are less happy with debt. The article states “if you are in debt, you tend to be less happy”. Good advice.
Is happiness realistic — at all times?
The lyrics of Bobby McFerrin’s popular song Don’t worry – Be Happy warn us to expect trouble to happen. McFerrin admonishes us not to worry when these troubles come. There certainly are times when it is normal to feel angry, anxious or sad. Life is not one-dimensional. A loved one dies and grief — not happiness results. Everyone has difficult experiences when happiness seems elusive.
You learn to become aware of those times when you aren’t happy — the blue days. With postworksavvy maturity you also learn to apply certain positive psychology techniques (mindfulness, gratitude, optimism, generosity and perspective) to help you move from the present situation to a more ideal state.
Negative thinking contributes to unhappiness so avoiding the trap of ‘awfulizing’ a situation will help to keep you from a downward spiral.
Buddha teaches that suffering is part of living. There are some events that create a sense of indignation. Unfairness, unkindness, lack of social justice usually cause a sense of indignation for me.
It frustrates me when people’s rights are violated, when children suffer unnecessarily, when opportunities in society are not equally available to all citizens. These injustices make me angry. My happiness is thwarted and I feel helpless about changes that I can make to make the world a better/happier place.
No one should expect to be happy all the time. It is simply unrealistic. But thinking about your happiness helps you understand yourself and make improvements in how you live to maximize happiness. Compassion, spirituality and living authentically will improve your happiness level.
What does happiness mean for you?
John Hallward, author of The Happiness Equation: The Human Nature of Happy People interviewed 1000 Canadians for the Ipsos Reid study already cited. As well as the absence of debt, Hallward recommends keeping love in your life as a secret of happiness. Relationships count toward happiness.
Hallward also found that happiness increased with age — especially after age 60 — when worries about money and career often decrease, children grow to independence, and life mellows.
I have thought about what happiness means for me. Years of writing a journal have helped me to realize that happiness has meant different things at different ages and stages of my life. Happiness comes from my long and loving relationship with my husband. Being a mother has brought all the angst of parenting but has also brought much happiness. I am proud of my adult son and enjoy being part of his life. Having a rewarding career and the status that came along with success was an important factor in my happiness in years past and I now look back at that time and smile to myself.
At present, living a postworksavvy life of retirement where I am more focused on the immediate rewards of every day gives me the freedom to be happy in each moment. This is especially true as I enjoy the long summer days and relaxed lifestyle at the cottage.
I’ve learned that life is not one-dimensional. There is no simplistic formula for happiness. I’ve also learned that courage is necessary for achieving happiness. It takes courage to live your values, to say no to immediate gratifications, and to live according to a greater purpose. I am at peace with the knowledge that there is no perfect life, no perfect relationship and no perfect happiness. I stay focused on making those small improvements and enjoying the journey to the best of my ability.
Thanks for reading this post. I hope it has inspired you to think about your own happiness. If you like my blog, please email it to a friend and please consider becoming a subscriber to receive regular updates.