What makes you happy?
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What makes you happy?

Being happy is one of the main goals in life. We wish to spend our lives happily and it’s one of the biggest wishes parents could have for their children.

Being happy is one of the main goals in life. We wish to spend our lives happily and it’s one of the biggest wishes parents could have for their children.

But the meaning of happiness seems to be blurred; it’s not filled with content yet. How can we figure out what will make us happy?

Sometimes it can be helpful to use findings of science because they are able to provide a framework that we can individually fill with content.

Positive Psychology research of the last years shows that we have different areas of life which can contribute to our overall happiness. Together these areas are named PERMA.

PERMA is the scientific formula for happiness.

Pleasures are the "whipped cream" of life.

P – Pleasure (positive emotion): Adding pleasures to our life can make us happy. Pleasure could be a walk in the park, a delicious meal or experiencing something exciting. More pleasures mean more positive emotions. The drawback of the pleasure is the short term value of the happiness created by external things.

E – Engagement: Engaging yourself fully in your daily activities – no matter whether it’s in regards to your job, your hobbies, your sport or being a parent creates a feeling of being completely absorbed in your activity. Experiencing such “flow” moments in your life help to increase our intelligence, skills and emotional capabilities.

Relationships are an essential part of happiness.

R – Relationships: Most of our very happy moments and memories are connected to other people. Having positive and stable relationships is something we need to thrive and they support us in difficult times.

M – Meaning: Knowing your strengths and use them in the service of something larger than you (e.g. charity, projects) adds more to your life than material things.

A – Accomplishments: Having goals and ambitions finally leads to an effort in order to achieve these goals. Being successful at something is part of happiness and satisfaction.

All 5 Areas play a role in a happy life. But one of them seems to be a lot less important than the others when it comes to “overall happiness”:

  • Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishments have a strong contribution to overall happiness.
  • Pleasures alone won’t give you overall happiness because the positive emotion habituates quite fast. Furthermore, the intensity of how you perceive positive emotions is mostly hereditary and may be changed only by 10 to 15% by training.
  • But: in addition to Engagement, strong Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishments, Pleasures add something to your overall happiness that is more than the sum of its parts – it’s like the “whipped cream of life”.

You can view these areas of happiness as your individual dish with 5 different ingredients (P-E-R-M-A), but only with all ingredients the dish is perfectly in harmony. However, you still can decide what kind of dish (your individual happy life) should be the result at the end.

What is the taste of your dish of happiness?


David steindl rast happiness screenshot

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