4 truths and myths about happiness

Chocolate is a popular treat. Do treats really cheer us up?I believe that many truths and myths about happiness are not simply true or false – black or white – there are shades of grey. They can, at times, be true or false, depending on the circumstances, the individual and other factors.

Here are my thoughts on four truths and myths about happiness.

1. Treats cheer us up.
2. Spending some time alone will make us happier.
3. If we search for happiness it will never come – we’ll just push it away. We have to let happiness come to us.
4. Money buys happiness.

1. Treats cheer us up.

My view: Sometimes true

Treats can boost happiness, depending on different factors. These factors are, for example, what the treats are, how often we have them, what they are taken with, the circumstances they are taken in, and the individual.

Overdo treats and they might cause problems. Let’s use chocolate and wine as examples. For many people, a small amount of high quality dark chocolate as a treat can increase health and happiness. Too much chocolate, however, can be counter-productive, causing unwanted weight gain, and feelings of guilt and gluttony… so reduce happiness. For many adults, wine in small amounts as a treat may enhance health and happiness, but too much wine as treats can cause problems.

2. Spending some time alone will make us happier.

My view: Sometimes true

At times spending time alone can boost happiness. We can chill out, gather our thoughts, gain new perspectives on our problems, and so on. A key word in the above saying is “some”, because being isolated for too long is bad for our health and well-being, and can lessen happiness. Adam Cresswell, from The Australian Health and Science News, reports that social isolation is as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

So spend some time alone if we need to, but don’t be alone for too long. Maintain strong social connections. Humans are social beings, needing love, support and companionship.

3. If we search for happiness it will never come – we’ll just push it away. We have to let happiness come to us.

My view: Myth

So happiness will just come to us like being struck by lightning? No lifestyle changes or better habits… will make us happier? We don’t have to do anything – just patiently wait until happiness comes? Wellness centers, laughter workshops, happiness websites, books to boost happiness, and entire professions such as psychology… are a waste of time because searching for happiness is pointless? Nonsense!

This saying makes as much sense as thinking that success, weight loss and good health… will just come to us – we don’t have to do anything positive and worthwhile to make them happen.

We can try to force ourselves to be happy. But forcing things is a negative energy that can push things away from us. We can overdo anything, and go about it the wrong way. Pursue happiness in the right ways and, obviously, we can be happier.

Not surprisingly, research into what makes people happy has found that happy people tend to have different habits to unhappy people.

4. Money buys happiness.

My view: Money buys things that can lead to happiness. But whether or not we feel happier from what we buy – and how long the happiness lasts if we do feel happier – depends on many things.

Being happy is hard if we don’t have the basics of life – adequate food, shelter, clothing, and so on. In most societies these, obviously, cost money. Yet does having just our basic needs met make us happy? Or do we need to live a life of luxury? How much money do we need to be happy?

Money buys goods, services and experiences that may or may not lead to happiness. Happiness is an intangible emotion, like stress, sadness and anxiety. It’s our reactions to what we buy that can cause happiness. Even if we buy things that make us happy, whether this happiness is fleeting or longer lasting varies depending on many things – what we spend our money on, our health, personality, attitude toward what we buy, our individual likes and dislikes, and so on.

If money bought long-term happiness, then is it fair to say that all the rich people in the world would be happy because they have more than enough money to buy their own happiness? There are both happy and unhappy rich people. There are also happy and unhappy poor people.

What we spend our money on affects our happiness. Research has found that spending money on life experiences, such as going on holidays and to the theater, boosts happiness more than buying material possessions.

Intangible things, such as love, kindness, forgiveness, inner peace, and good friendships, can lead to happiness, and money can’t buy any of these. They come from our heart and soul.

Interested in more of my ideas on money and happiness? If so, read my blog posts Can money buy happiness? and Does great wealth equal great happiness? Not necessarily, a recent survey finds.

written by Nyomi Graef

Cresswell, A, 2010, Isolation as harmful as smoking 15 a day, Health and Science, The Australian News,

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