“Human beings seem to have this unique capacity to focus on the non-present. They have the ability to reflect on the past, plan for the future and imagine things that might never occur. But at the same time, human beings are a clumsy user of this capacity and it tends to decrease, rather than increase, happiness,” Matthew Killingsworth, Studies the nature and causes of human happiness and creator of trackyourhappiness.org
The pursuit of happiness is as old as the humankind. Aristotle called it “the chief good” for which humanity should aim. It also made it into the United States Declaration of Independence. But what is it that brings happiness?
Some argue that possessions bring us happiness, some say it is the experiences that bring lasting joy, yet others think the social connections are critical for happiness, there are others who feel having a purpose or meaning in life is most important for a life lived well. All viewpoints are valid. However, these four sources can be easily categorized into two main buckets: Money and Focus.
The connection of Money to the sources of happiness is a direct one. Money helps you get the possessions or experiences. The purpose of your life or the act or thing that brings meaning to your life could be what enables you to make that money, or it could be that money that you make from other sources gives you the ability to volunteer and/or donate money and time to things that make your life meaningful. These activities could range from your passion for dance or love for animals or desire to eradicate slavery in the world.
The connection of Focus to happiness is not that easy to make but is very critical. So, let us explain. The reason why social relationships and having purposeful or meaningful life makes us happy is that when we are with friends and working on something useful, we are focused; our mind and body is fully involved in that act. This is why sports and dance make us happy – these acts require us to be focused. In sports, you have to be completely aware of what the other player is doing; you have to be ready for the shot that comes your way. Similarly, while dancing you are fully aware of the music, other dancers, you cannot check out and still dance – well some people do check out while dancing, but you can immediately notice how horrible their dance is, isn’t it?
Now, there are studies done that show that money does make us happy. Richer people are happier than poorer people at any given time. But after studying 450,000 responses to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton from Princeton University concluded that high income buys life satisfaction but not happiness and that low income exacerbates the impact of misfortune (such as illness, divorce, etc.) on emotional wellbeing. The emotional well-being or happiness rises with money but up to about $75,000 in annual income. Once you make $75,000 a year, the buying power of money to spend time with friends or on things that you like diminishes.
On the other hand, we have all heard that Being Present and Calming Your Mind is the road to happiness. Hinduism and Buddhism have taught benefits of meditation and focused minds for many centuries. So, Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert decided to test out scientifically in 2010. They created trackyourhappiness.org and an iPhone app. People could download the app and volunteer to participate in the study. Through the app, they send signals to people to answer three simple questions in the moment:
- How do you feel? on a scale ranging from very bad to very good
- What are you doing? On a list of 22 activities including things like eating, working, watching TV.
- Are you thinking about something other than what you are currently doing? No, Yes: To something pleasant, yes: Neutral, Yes: something unpleasant.
They analyzed about 2,250 responses and what did they find: Focused Mind is Indeed a Happy mind. They also found:
- Humans are thinking about things other than what they are doing a lot. 47% of their waking hours are spent thinking about something different than what they are doing. You may be driving but planning on everything that you are going to do when you get home. You may be working on the computer but thinking about the beautiful vacation in Cancun.
- Humans daydream pleasant things the most (42.5% of the responses), they feel about neutral things like planning next (31% of the responses), and they think about the unpleasant things the least (26.5% of the responses).
- And while people who were thinking of pleasant things were happier than people thinking of unpleasant things, even those thinking happy thoughts were less happy than people who were fully engaged in whatever they were doing. A person was about 16% happier when she was focused vs. when she was not.
So, what if we focused on what is necessary‚ cut out the distractions and focus on few things that are necessary for you at the time. Now, what is essential to us may change from week-to-week or year-to-year or even from hour-to-hour, the important thing is to focus on what we think is necessary for us now. If we did that, we are more likely to find happiness.
For this reason and others, the focus is essential for us at Conure. It guides us in every aspect of our business. Focus on what we are about (benefits of herbs brought to you in innovative ways), how we hire, how we conduct meetings, how we lead our days (meditate, exercise, work and pursue a passion other than work), and so on.
We hope that our products bring you the benefits of herbs to you and help you focus on what is necessary for you.
- A Wandering Mind is an Unhappy mind, Science Magazine, November 12, 2010
- Want to be happier? Stay in the moment. TedXCambridge November 2011
- High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being,
- Money buys happiness Only up to a point , Live Science, September 06, 2010