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11 Jun 2012

Is Happiness No Big Thing Really?

Is happiness no big thing?

When we consider the question, “Is happiness no big thing?” it is amazing what we find.

How many times have people said, “Oh, if this would just happen, I would be so happy!” or “I would be happy if I just had this”? On the other hand, is happiness no big thing really?

Humans are biased in the solutions they seek. They prefer one big solution over many small ones. This shows up in happiness big time.

Relationships Are Big in Happiness

Research shows decisively that happiness is about relationships. It is not about any one relationship but rather about four to eight close ones.

For instance, Gardiner Morse tells Daniel Gilbert that when he assesses people’s happiness:

I’d want to know about your social network – about your friends and family and the strength of your bonds with them.

So Is Happiness No Big Thing Then?

Relationships are big in happiness, but they are about more than just people. They are what people do in those relationships. They build them over time. Many small acts do this. As Gilbert points out:

We imagine that one or two big things will have a profound effect [on our happiness]. But it looks like happiness is the sum of hundreds of little things.

What are these hundred little things in relationships? They are small acts of relationship building and helping others feel good about themselves. So, while relationships are big in happiness, many small things over time go into them.

Beyond Relationships

Is happiness no big thing still when we get beyond relationships? Here again, it is about small acts over time. Gilbert summarizes them as “meditating, exercise, getting enough sleep – and to practice altruism.

As Assistant Professor Charlotte Fritz of Portland State University wrote regarding work breaks:

The only time people showed an increase in vitality [during breaks] was after they took breaks to do work-related things, such as praise a colleague . . .

In short, doing good makes us happy. It makes more productive too.

Happiness Now!

Can people be happy now? Yes, that is because happiness is about little things. People can try these to be happy NOW:

  • Compliment a spouse, family member, friend, co-worker or employee
  • Ask someone to help you
  • Leave a complimentary comment on social media rather than just clicking “Like” or “Retweet”
  • Do something good for someone or a group

No big thing, right?



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