Seeking Happiness: Focus on Relationships

The Oxford Happiness Inventory and a battery of personality measures were completed by 171 subjects. The results showed predicted positive correlations for happiness with satisfaction with life, self-esteem, and sociability and negative correlations of happiness with embarrass-ability, loneliness, shyness, and social anxiety. 

Four predictors (satisfaction with life, shyness, loneliness, and sociability) accounted for 58% of the variance in happiness scores.

1.  Freedom and personal autonomy

Daniel H. Pink is the author of a number of provocative bestselling books on the changing world of work.   Money can be a powerful motivator, but as studies performed by universities around the country (and this video) explain, rewarding people financially only works to a point. Beyond that, you need autonomy and purpose. Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

Freedom and personal autonomy are more important to people’s well-being than money. According to a meta-analysis of data from 63 countries published by the American Psychological Association, Money Can’t Buy Happiness: Individualism is a Stronger Predictor of Well-Being Than Wealth. In short, they found, “Money leads to autonomy but it does not add to well-being or happiness.”

2. Cultivating positive emotions

According to a study in July 2009 by a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill psychologist and colleagues,  people who seed their life with frequent moments of positive emotions increase their resilience against challenges. “This study shows that if happiness is something you want out of life, then focusing daily on the small moments and cultivating positive emotions is the way to go,” —  Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D.

3. Practicing kindness

Making small talk is often an impossible task to a depressed or hopeless person. Thinking happy thoughts, focusing on the good and downplaying the bad is believed to accelerate recovery from depression, bolster resilience during a crisis and improve overall mental health, but we can all benefit from the company of others.

The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention…. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words. — Rachel Naomi Remen

4. Meaningful social relationships

Psychologists have discovered what appears to increase happiness and it’s age-old wisdom. “The strongest predictor of happiness is not money, or external recognition through success or fame,” Gruber says in Happiness Has a Dark Side. “It’s having meaningful social relationships.” That means the best way to increase your happiness is to stop worrying about being happy and instead divert your energy to nurturing the social bonds you have with other people. “If there’s one thing you’re going to focus on, focus on that. Let all the rest come as it will.”


Let a kind word warm you when your thoughts turn cold. — A Little Kindness

That aphorism is really about about openness, allowing oneself to be comforted by another.  Happiness is and inside job and I’m an intensely private person. I have always struggled to be open to receiving comfort.  I am learning that when I’m feeling blue listening to kind and supportive words can help motivate me to do the inside work required to lift myself out of a depression. I am learning how to accept kindness and it’s not easy. Do you find that it’s easier to be kind, than it is to accept kindness?