Whether your ambition is to find fame and fortune or to change the world, most people strive to increase happiness. But happiness is a subjective measure – it depends on self-evaluation, and changes over time.
We measure happiness using by comparing our self-view with our expectations. Studies suggest women’s happiness has been decreasing over time and older people are happier.
While these overall trends are interesting, researchers have not found reasons for these shifts. Could it simply be related to changes in perception? We face uncertainties as circumstances change and may interpret this insecurity as unhappiness.
When I left my corporate career, I did not know how to fill my day and felt frustration, which made me unhappy. I needed to rediscover myself to find what gives me joy. The search for happiness can be invigorating yet overwhelming.
Studies correlate happiness with gender. Some suggest that happiness is related to goal fulfillment; women’s focus is on relationships and family life while men are more concerned with financial and professional success.
By extrapolating these generalities, we might conclude that women might be happier when they are younger and raising families, and men more satisfied reflecting on successful career advancement. But these are guesses. Looking deeper shows underlying differences:
- Women value self-esteem based on relationships, while men value control.
- Women measure their worth based on other people’s opinions, experiencing impostor syndrome, which causes them to doubt the validity of their accomplishments. Men are willing to take more risks even though they may have internal doubts. Men apply for positions where they lack expertise (while women typically won’t apply unless they are 100% qualified). And it is possible that women experience more stress and reduced happiness by holding back and doubting their abilities.
- Fear of failure can make women overly sensitive to social or interpersonal queues, they may internalize issues, or repress anger in order to avoid conflict. These can be unconscious actions to maintain relationships.
Just as stress can reduce happiness, positive emotions and gratitude can increase happiness. Women are more likely to experience intense positive emotions and express gratitude than men. Studies linked women’s desire to contribute to positive change to greater joy, peace, and contentment. Women tend to prioritize the needs of others over their own.
In contrast, a 2018 study conducted by Harry’s linked men’s sense of satisfaction with career satisfaction. In a May, 2019 article Paul Dolan, a professor of Behavioral Science at the London School of Economics said, “unmarried and childless women are the happiest subgroup in the population.”
In short: happiness is not defined by gender – it depends on how you view life.
There are striking similarities among happy people. They are optimistic, positive and expect good things to happen. Happy people see a glass as half-full; they live in the moment. And since they don’t expect everything to turn out perfect, or focus on the future, they experience less stress.
Happy people are less envious of others, they are more likely to show empathy and support rather than competition. There is no correlation between money and happiness, so long as you have enough for the basic necessities.
Happiness is not having what you want but being content with what you have
Happy people tend to like themselves, feel in control and have a similar approach to life. Happy people:
- Do things which give them joy
- Take pride in accomplishments. They don’t worry about other people’s opinions.
- Laugh at mistakes and grow from them. They don’t demand perfection from themselves or others.
- Use money as a means to an end (to do things they enjoy).
- Spend time connecting with and helping others.
Happiness is only a state of mind and does not depend on gender or situation. Seeing things in a positive light will improve your happiness. It gets easier once you recognize there will be things you can’t change, no matter how hard you try.
Instead of stressing, focus on finding solutions. Do things that give you joy. Make your mark on the people around you by having a positive outlook and spreading happiness. Embrace your wild side and take a chance without wondering about what others will think.
Live life to the fullest!