These are the 3 things that determine how happy you will be

On balance, the pandemic seems to have impacted emotional wellness in one of two ways. The first and likely most common is incredibly negative. Mass death. No bars. No movies. Depression.

The other was indirectly touched upon in a recent edition of Impact Theory. Host, Tom Bilyeu dug into the meat of what it means to be happy—not in some abstract sense, but in a reasoned and attainable way.

He and his guest determined that there’s a physiology to feeling good that’s influenced by a range of non-physiological factors. Some of these factors vary from person to person but the larger majority are shared by members of a given culture.

For Americans, these factors relate to wealth, age, and purpose. However, each of these more meaningfully serves the most important component of maintaining happiness: opportunity.

Wealth affords one the opportunity to pursue work that fulfills them, as oppose to juggling gigs to make rent. One’s age provides the opportunity to align milestones with physical prowess. And being aware of one’s purpose grants the opportunity to optimize every activity toward an established goal. Each element contributes to individual happiness to varying degrees.

“There’s a misconception that happiness is built-in and that we can’t change it,” Laurie Santos, professor of psychology at Yale University and teacher of the Coursera class The Science of Well-Being, said in a recent release. “The science shows that our circumstances — how rich we are, what job we have, what material possessions we own — these things matter less for happiness than we think.”

We’re currently weathering a health-economic crisis hybrid, that has effectively de-focused every segment of normal life. The end result has elevated simple-instant pleasures and cheapened long-term ones.

Research suggests that, in order to return balance to different modes of happiness, we have to do a little more self-interrogating than we’re used to.

“Happiness comes in two forms. There is in-the-moment happiness, which is derived from things that give us immediate pleasure, like eating a chocolate bar or taking a hot shower on a cold day. There’s also the related idea of life meaning, fulfillment, or reflective happiness. We experience this type of happiness when we reach a milestone or create something we are proud of. It may not be as state-altering as in-the-moment happiness, but its effects can be just as potent, especially in the long run,”  psychologist, Mark Travers Ph.D. wrote in a new paper.

“How should we go about improving our sense of mattering? While there’s no easy answer, a good place to start is by thinking about the questions that define the concept of mattering. They are: “my life is inherently valuable,” “even a thousand years from now, it would still matter whether I existed or not,” “whether my life ever existed matters even in the grand scheme of the universe,” and “I am certain that my life is of importance.”

Of course, some people are inherently dour–preset circumstances omitted. Sadly, this group is often left out of husky pep talks. Psychologists often attempt to convert pessimists instead of trying to appeal to them.

Pessimism isn’t always an indicator of emotional disorder. It may in fact be possible to expect the worst and fully recognize and appreciate the best when it comes. This mentality requires subscribers to perceive happiness as the absence of sadness and not a separate entity in and of itself.

The best way to determine whether or not you are an optimist is via the Life Orientation Test:

  1. In uncertain times, I usually expect the best.
  2. If something can go wrong for me, it probably won’t.
  3. I’m always optimistic about my future.
  4. I mostly expect things to go my way.
  5. I often count on good things happening to me.
  6. Overall, I expect more good things to happen to me than bad.

Irrespective of how you reacted to the questions above, it probably won’t matter to most that you’re here in the cosmic sense, but that shouldn’t blunt your sense of happiness or self-worth. Everyone matters to someone and the tools to maintain our sense of purpose are at our own individual disposal.

“New psychological research suggests that autonomy, mattering, and age are three important components of happiness. While the age component will take care of itself, it’s up to you to guide your life in a direction that will enhance your sense of mattering and autonomy,” Travers concldues.