It is a generally accepted idea that humans are quite inaccurate at predicting their future emotions. Seemingly everyone will get caught up in the natural way of thinking that, “Once I achieve this milestone (or whatever material item), then I will be fulfilled”. Much to our, disappointment, we tend to be wrong even when we are successful at attaining these goals. Then, we find a new ambition, and the entire process starts all over again. All the while, we fail to ever achieve true inner-happiness and the contentment we have always been seeking. The reason for these occurrences are the following: the actions and mindsets people expect will solve their problems, or bring them greater happiness, are often altogether erroneous and counterproductive; there is an immense amount of data to support this idea. For instance, especially in Western culture, an individual’s goals tend to be more material-influenced, and we all too often focus on what others have in relation to ourselves. Succumbing to these social comparisons can be awfully naive, however, it is not just the individual’s fault; in our media-driven society, we are constantly reminded of the fact that there are certain people with significantly higher incomes than we will ever have. And we will see that other nations in the world whose citizens are not exposed to these cultural influences, tend to yield more satisfied populations. There is something to be learned from these countries and it is worth exploring why they seem to be so much happier than the rest of us.
When speaking about income, or basically any other social comparison, the most important word to remember is relativity. A 1998 study by Sara J. Solnick and David Hemenway found that, it is not how much money we make, but how much money we make in relation to our peers. Their study found that a large number of individuals would rather live in a world where they made $50,000 while peers made $25,000, than a world where they made $100,000 and their peers made $200,000. This study shares an interesting similarity with the country of Denmark. Denmark operates an egalitarian society, which means they have great equal opportunity for all citizens, and as a consequence, a very unified social class. The country of Denmark is highly taxed: but they have excellent health care, extremely little unemployment, low poverty rates, and virtually no national debt. All of these reasons are why Denmark is consistently ranked among the happiest countries in the world. They are not bothered with the severe variability of income and social standing, which antagonizes other countries like here in the United States. Freedom of these burdens allows their mental focus to be directed toward other, more meaningful aspects of life, which allows them to feel even more life satisfaction.
Countries that are happiest tend to focus less on material elements of life and more on the more meaningful ones: such as family and passions. The Danes have more leisure time from work than any country in the world. Studies show that Danes also tend to enjoy their jobs significantly more than other countries. So it appears where most people go wrong is allowing themselves to be overworked and working in jobs that do not even satisfy them to begin with. So conclusions we can draw from this are imperative to well-being: it is dire for people to be fulfilled in their careers, but also have time to enjoy their personal endeavors. Now, some may argue that people do not necessarily have control over these aspects of their life. Most people work jobs they do not like out of desperation. While this may be the case, it does not change the fact that for people to be happiest, we must find gratification in our careers, while also having a decent amount of time for ourselves. With this time, we must also be in the moment and enjoy life as it happens, without dwelling on our personal issues or the future. There is an extremely beneficial type of therapy that can greatly assist in this notion.
The techniques of Mindfulness meditation have been around for hundreds of years in the Buddhist religion. It is no secret, mindfulness meditation is one of the best ways for anyone to boost their quality of life and well-being, and there are numerous research studies to prove it. This type of meditation has the power to help individuals do things such as: by focusing on the here and now, not get caught up on the anxieties and worries of life, have more mental toughness to deal with strenuous life events, help people savour the precious moments of life, boost self-esteem, and better one’s ability to form deeper relationships with others. In fact, a 2007 study from the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, found that Mindfulness increased couple’s romantic relationships with one another. These benefits of mindfulness have pronounced effects on both physical and mental health. Mental health for example, this meditation works particularly well for: depression, anxiety, OCD, substance abuse, and eating disorders. For instance, an 8 week study on Chinese undergraduates, after only 5 days in the study, they were reporting less depression, anger, and anxiety. Their benefits far exceeded another group in the study who only received relaxation training.
When people simply put themselves in the correct mindset, they can substantially increase their well-being and happiness. Placing particular emphasis on not allowing one’s self to agonize over irrelevant upward social comparisons. When we allow ourselves to ruminate over adversity in our lives, we allow these distresses to build up and completely occupy our thoughts, and this will not bring us any closer to relief. The practice of Mindfulness meditation is fantastic remedy with proven efficacy. Success at these methods can provide the masses with the opportunity for true long-term prosperity.