For the International Day of Happiness: The Most Important Thing I’ve Learned About Happiness.

For the International Day of Happiness: The Most Important Thing I’ve Learned About Happiness.

March 20 is the International Day of Happiness (there's a day for just about everything, isn't there?).

That got me thinking. I've been researching, thinking, and writing about it for a decade now: what's the most important thing I've learned about happiness? How can we help ourselves to become happier?

And I realize that my crucial insight is that the answer is: It depends.

It depends on the kind of person we are—our interests, our values, our temperament, our circumstances.

It's so easy to fall into the trap of thinking there's a "best" way, or the "right" way—but it just depends.

For instance, maybe you know you'd be happier if you exercised regularly, or if you spent less time on your phone, or if you finished your Ph.D. thesis, or if you yelled at your kids less, or if your house were less cluttered.

How do you make these changes? It depends...

And so many other factors.

Very often, though, we're told we "should" be able to do something, or that something "should" make us happy.

For instance, we're told we should be made happier by...

  • travel
  • wine
  • shopping
  • spontaneity
  • music

But those aren't major sources of happiness for me. I see their value, they do bring me some happiness, I understand that they're very important to other people, but for me, meh. It depends on who you are.

With that said, if pressed for a universal answer about how to become happier, I do think there are two aspects of happiness that are true for just about everyone.

First, we need self-knowledge.

This is what I'm talking about above. When we know ourselves, we can shape our lives to suit what's true for us.

Second, we need relationships.

To be happy, we have to have enduring, intimate bonds with others; we have to feel like we belong; we have to be able to give and get support.

If someone asked you, "What's the most important thing you've learned about happiness?" what would you answer?

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