There are many different wants in a world of over 7.5 billion people, but here's a universal desire: happiness. People have different ideas of what makes them truly happy, but happiness is an emotion that just about everyone shares in common - and you know it when you feel it.
Canadians just so happen to be among the happiest people on the planet. According to a joint report from the Global Happiness Council and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Canada ranked seventh, ahead of New Zealand, Sweden and Australia and just behind the Netherlands. The researchers used a wide variety of statistics to come to their conclusions, such as social support, life expectancy, freedoms and generosity.
"Parents say nothing is more important than their children's happiness."
Just how much do people value happiness? When it comes to their children's happiness, parents say nothing is more important. According to a study done by Abelson Taylor, parents said their children's health and happiness was more important to them than their own self-confidence or financial well-being.
It raises the question, though: What makes people happy? Researchers sought the answer in a series of studies published in The Journal of Positive Psychology. Participants in the study were asked several questions, with the overarching question being with regards to "remembered happiness" versus "experienced happiness." Remembered happiness refers to the joy that's experienced upon reflection, while experienced happiness is felt in the moment of an event.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, respondents had contrasting takes on which they wanted more. When choosing what they wanted for their life - meaning a longer timeframe – 79% said experienced happiness was more desirable. While in terms of what they wanted to feel for the next hour or two, it was an even split, with 49% preferring experienced happiness and 48% remembered.
"It's important to note that while this research helps us understand people's beliefs about which happiness is preferable, it does not prescribe which form of happiness would be better to pursue," the authors wrote. "But these results reveal that Westerners planning their lives by the day or the hour will likely achieve a different version of happiness than what they themselves believe makes a happy life."
Similar tests have been done on the differences between experiences and possessions. Do people find happiness with the things that they've done - like travelling - or with items they purchase, meaning their stuff? On average, millennials would much rather go and do something than buy and use.
How Do You Achieve success? By Working At It
Success is another core element to happiness, which provides a sense of satisfaction after having achieved something. Happiness researcher Gillian Mandich noted, there are no shortcuts to success; slow and steady progress wins the race.
"Achieving happiness requires the same approach as a healthy lifestyle – consistency!" advised Mandich. "The greatest successes result from slow, steady lifestyle changes. The psychology of behaviour change teaches us that making small changes over time is the most effective way to make long-term, lifestyle changes. Making small, healthy choices each day really does add up and can help you get into a flow state, or 'in the zone,' and increase overall happiness."
For example, if you're looking to lose weight but rarely exercise, take baby steps by easing your way into it, such as walking briskly for 30 minutes to start. If you want to travel more, do your research about places you've been meaning to visit and talk with friends about any deals they know of for accommodations.
Happiness is whatever you want it to be. Whether it's getting healthier, travelling or pursuing a promotion at work, a positive attitude and a willingness to act can help you rediscover what truly makes you happy.