A child game uploaded to a briefcase.
A child plays in a briefcase.
Happiness is not just a difficult concept to define. It is also a tremendously subjective term. The fact that each one defines it and finds it in a different way, reflects that subjectivity and complexity that this concept has.
The criteria for classifying what makes a person happy is very personal. And it also varies over time. It is not the same thing that makes us happy at one age than at another, for example. Our priorities, our needs change and this makes our prism of what makes us happiest at one time or another vary in a certain way.
When we ask people what would make them happier, they think about what they lack, what would compensate for the more mediate lack they have. For example, vacations, a better job or more money. But there are also many factors that influence that response: the social group from which it comes, the place where it lives, the circumstances it has gone through, and so on.
This subjectivity in how and in which way each one of us feels happy explains why there are people who, objectively and seeing it from outside, seem to have all the motives of the world to have happiness in their lives and yet they feel unhappy and However, other people who have gone through or are going through very hard circumstances seem to be able to find enough reasons to have a positive vision of life.
The fact that people are able to interpret the things that happen to us in one way or another does not necessarily bring objectivity to the matter. But it does give us a court when it comes to choosing how we want to value them and what we want to get out of the things that happen to us. What we want to learn, what we want to extract from each experience.
By pure statistics people spend in life by circumstances of all kinds, better and worse
By pure statistics, people go through circumstances in life of all kinds. Some times better and others worse. We are all hit by life with losses of people we love, with our own illnesses or those of someone close to us who make us suffer, frustrations, failures of all kinds.
But also for that same statistic every day we have all of us circumstances that, if we stop to look at them and analyze them, we would realize that they are almost miracles. Especially in our privileged world where we have a large part of our needs covered. However, we miss many of those day-to-day miracles simply because they are there; because we already take them for granted and almost give them as an acquired right.
I speak of all kinds of circumstances. We are able to travel kilometers in summer to see the sunset recommended in the tour guide on duty (I think I have read more times “the best sunset in the world” than “made in China”) but ignore what each day happens in our city. Because yes, officially the sun sets wherever we are. And if the clouds allow it, they are usually spectacular in all the places where it is put.
There is a quote from Tal Ben Shahar that I love and that I made mine a long time ago: “I am not one of those who believe that everything happens for the better, but there are people capable of making the best of whatever happens”. Of course, the second option requires some effort. It requires us to strive to focus on the positive of what happens to us (almost always there is) and to find the learning, or the opportunity to grow in what has happened to us. Easier the first option, that of letting ourselves be carried away by pessimism; more enriching the second, that of growing with each circumstance through which we pass, be positive or negative.
So we already know that happiness is subjective by how and where we define it and look for each one. And also for how we each take the circumstances we go through.
But it is also that subjectivity is affected by the effect of comparison with our environment. Whether we like it or not, we constantly compare ourselves: in our family, with our friends, at work …
Our degree of happiness is affected by the comparison with our environment
For some time now, this effect of social comparison has been studied from different points of view. In a curious Harvard study they asked 257 people which option they preferred from the following two: Option A) You earn $ 50″,000 a year, while your partners earn $ 25″,000; Option B) You earn $ 100″,000 a year while your classmates earn $ 200″,000. Half of the participants preferred to earn 50% less as long as that meant winning more comparatively.
Other research claimed that bronze medal winners are happier than silver medal winners. These last ones were compared with the first ones while the bronze medalists felt the winners of the “peloton”, of those who had not won a medal. And the British economist Richard Layard assures that the happiness index of the inhabitants of Eastern Germany descended after the unification because its comparative stopped being the one of the group of countries of the East to be compared with the most western countries.
So, indeed, it seems that human beings are comparative beings and that our position within the social group matters to us and affects us greatly in our level of satisfaction with life. He is not very wise, but he is very human.
And in this world of social networks and life facing the showcase, the situation does not seem to improve. The index of anxiety and even depression among adolescents has increased in recent years, according to experts, because of social networks . Pages can make kids feel bad if they think they are not up to their friends due to the number of visits, updated messages and pictures of happy people who are having a great time.
If we add that when we visit any of the social networks it seems that everyone leads a dream life (no one hangs up the moment to go shopping, or the boring party where we have been 15 minutes because we were dying of a yawn, and admit it, we have all been in one) the person perceives a completely distorted vision of what is the reality of any mortal.
To be able to have every day the small miracles that surround us, to value what we have regardless of whether my brother-in-law has more hair or my companion’s car is convertible while mine did not reach the revolution of the automatic windows and not leave that technology brings us closer to those who are far away, but away from those who are close, it would help us to have a more objective view of the amount of things that every day we get up with the feeling that life is cool, very hot