Gretchen Rubin

My four pillars of happiness: energy, fun, peace of mind, and love.

Because I’m the kind of person who likes to divide everything into categories, and enjoys trying to distill every idea into its essence, I’ve been trying to think of how to characterize the elements of a happy life.

I have my earthshaking happiness formula, of course: To be happy, we must think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.

Then I asked myself, “What are the elements necessary for a happy life?”

Approaching the question in this way, I came up with a different kind of answer.

At least in my current thinking, my four pillars of happiness are: energy, fun, peace of mind, and love.

I’m still tinkering. For example, at first I had “a clean conscience” instead of “peace of mind,” but I realized that you could have a clean conscience without peace of mind, and I think you do need peace of mind. Not necessarily a peaceful life – some people thrive on bustle and even chaos – but peace of mind.

I debated about whether to include “energy” and “fun.” Probably you could be happy with “love” and “peace of mind.”

But if you have love, peace of mind, AND energy AND fun – wow, then that really sounds like a joyful kind of happiness.

Research backs me up on energy and fun.

One study measured students for four extraverted characteristics—talkativeness, assertiveness, adventurousness and energy level—and found that while all extraverted characteristics were related to happiness, energy level was most strongly related.

Also, when you have energy, it’s much easier to do all the things that will make you happier. It’s easier to exercise, it’s easier to hold your temper, it’s easier to go out of your way to help someone else.

Fun sounds a bit frivolous, but research shows that regularly having fun is a key factor in having a happy life. People who have fun are twenty times more likely to be happy. And again, when you have some fun in your life, it creates a cushion that makes it easier to handle the difficult parts of life. It can be a refuge, a distraction, a refreshment.

Peace of mind and love – of course, you must have peace of mind and love in order to be happy.

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