“Life is an endless series of trainwrecks with only brief, commercial-like breaks of happiness.” – Deadpool / Wade Wilson
If you can relate to this in any way, then this article is for you. There are highs and lows in life, but a few constants that can help sustain happiness.
Let’s dive in!
1. Having a dog or similar pet
Until you have a dog or another pet that loves you unconditionally, you probably won’t be able to comprehend the bond that develops between human and feline.
Dogs bring so much joy to people’s lives, each and every day. Nobody on earth will greet you as excitedly as a dog that hasn’t seen you for a while. Or even just 5 minutes! They comfort you when you’re down, they join in with your happiness.
They are a terrible choice on paper – they cost a lot, you need to pick up their poop, they need bathing and grooming, and they don’t help out with the chores. And yet, millions of people on our planet choose to have a dog, purely because of the endless happiness they deliver.
If you look past their flaws, they are flawless.
“Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” ― Agnes Sligh Turnbull
2. Seeing your lineage carry on, and prosper
There’s a strong argument that there is nothing more important in life than family.
You cannot underestimate the primal feeling of seeing your descendants – be that your own child or your nieces & nephews – come into the world and carry on the family name.
Humans are programmed to reproduce and find happiness and fulfilment in that pursuit. It is not essential to a happy and fulfilled life, but it is in our DNA that it can yield happiness and fulfilment.
Like dogs, kids are expensive and can be incredibly annoying! But evolution has ensured our brains are filled with love and happiness every time we look at them.
Seeing them grow & change, start to walk & talk, develop a personality, pass their driving test and graduate college, is truly and endless source of happiness.
3. Achieving financial independence
There is no such thing as completing the game of life. But, at the point where you have enough wealth to do whatever you want in life, be that retire on a beach or pursue a lifelong passion project, financial independence can afford you true, everlasting contentment.
It’s extremely common to fear losing your wealth, your job, your career or status. Your dependency on the 9-5 is a huge barrier to happiness. Once you break free of those chains, the weight off your shoulders is life changing.
Financial independence may be a long way away for you. In the meantime, know that watching your wealth increase over time is in itself a source of joy. Not in an ‘evil dragon hoarding gold’ kind of way, but the sense of satisfaction from seeing the fruits of your labor getting you one step closer to financial independence and peace of mind.
Goals in life keep us motivated and happy. A financial goal is good because ultimately, it can ‘buy’ you the most precious commodity of all: time. You can use the funds to travel the world, invest in the things you believe in, or hobbies that bring you joy.
Money does not buy happiness. But having control of your finances (being out of debt, having emergency savings) and being able to afford the things you love, are gateways to happiness. Our guide to financial independence and retiring early is here.
4. The gift that keeps on giving: Giving.
Giving a gift is seen as a selfless act, but it is incredibly rewarding for the giver.
As Joey from Friends says:
“It makes YOU feel really good, so it’s not unselfish.”
Joey is right, there is no unselfish good deed. You can exploit this all you want, because people love gifts and see it as being generous. But you’re secretly getting huge hits of happiness every time someone opens a gift you have given them and their face lights up. It’s a win-win.
Giving gifts, giving to charity, giving your time and volunteering, are all endless fountains of happiness that you can drink from any time. And it makes the world a better place, too!
5. Never achieving self-actualization
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs describes a theory of motivation, where at the bottom of the pyramid we meet our basic needs, and at the very top of the pyramid we achieve our full potential. Each layer must be satisfied before moving up to the next.
The goal is to achieve self-actualization, reaching our full potential and completing life.
But it is the pursuit of the reaching the top of the pyramid that is the endless stream of happiness. Think: happiness is a journey, not a destination.
Humans are always looking for the ‘next thing’. It’s why we have achieved so much as a race; we are constantly looking to adapt and improve. If we stay still too long, we grow discontent.
If you reach this theoretical upper limit (your full potential) and there is no higher to go, you’ll spend the rest of your days unhappy. How depressing to know no matter what you do from now on, you’ve peaked. You’ll never be better than right now.
I don’t believe self-actualization exists. In reality, our potential is limitless. You should never stop striving to improve, and it will bring you endless joy each time you get that little bit better. When we learn something new and improve, happiness chemicals are released. Keep releasing those happiness hormones.
6. Finally – You
Imagine having a button you could press to release dopamine, the happiness drug, whenever you wanted. And, it’s free & legal!
Right now, staring at the screen, I want you to force a huge smile across your face for 10 seconds.
It sounds utterly ridiculous, and you will feel incredibly silly, but faking a smile has been proven to make you feel happier. It is neurologically linked to the release of happiness chemicals in your brain.
It is so easy to prove and disprove in just 10 seconds. So please, go ahead and fake the biggest smile you can for 10 seconds.
How do you feel? Even if you notice an ever so slight improvement in mood, it proves you can force yourself to be happier. You can trigger dopamine releases like that whenever you want. A true superpower!
Finding the source of happiness that works for you
You do not need to do all six of these things to be happy.
But, I urge you to find at least one thing that brings you endless happiness with some urgency. Find your motivation and it can change the entire course of your life. Write it down, prioritize it, and use it as a compass that guides you.
Life is Ying and Yang. The truth is, you can’t have happiness without sadness. If we were happy all the time it would lose all meaning; you need both ends of the spectrum to understand that you’re happy at all. But any sadness in life will always lead back to happiness. Remember:
“This too shall pass” – Unknown
Be optimistic everyday and about everything – and seek out like-minded people. Hold on to your sources of happiness, and good luck!