Our conversations led to many rabbit trails but it often came down to this question; how do you define happiness? This is a question I ask all my parents within our junior high ministry when they all express that their main goal in life is to make sure their children are HAPPY. The crazy thing is they can never answer the question… they just stand there like a deer in the headlights.
It’s really hard to define happiness in terms of a life goal….is it success, a nice house with the white picket fence, a brand new vehicle every three years, a HAPPY marriage and a quiver full of lovely children?
A few months back I came across a very informative article while sitting down to a hot steaming cup of Java…read this…”Forget the stereotype about the crotchety old man or miserable old woman. New research from the University of Chicago indicates that people in their latter years are the happiest people around. More than 50 per cent of men and women over 85 involved in this particular study described themselves as “very happy.”
So this begs the question: who’s the least happy? This one’s easy. Think about who’s most likely to be swearing into a cell phone if there’s any sort of delay at the auto repair place (or the hospital emergency room). You guessed it! The most discontented generation of people also happens to be the most mammoth generation of people in recent memory: the famous (and infamous) Baby Boomers. (Just for the record, I am one of the infamous Baby Boomer malcontents myself, although I seem to be bursting with happiness these days. Maybe I’ve just succumbed to the notorious spring fever virus or something.)
Here’s the scoop on Baby Boomer happiness — or, rather, the lack thereof.
“Boomers have experienced less happiness on average than both earlier and more recent cohorts,” reports University of Chicago assistant professor of sociology Yang Yang, author of the study, which appears in this month’s issue of the American Sociological Review.
According to Yang, fierce competition for spots in the best colleges and universities and for job offers from the best firms in early adulthood may have led the Boomers (who now range in age from their mid-40s to their mid-60s) to expect that all their hard work would be rewarded by picture-perfect happy endings. They’d land that perfect job, buy that perfect house with that perfect someone, and raise that perfect family of 1.5 kids (or 1.5 dogs). All they had to do was play by the rules and wait for happiness to arrive on their doorstep.
But then happiness lost their address. (Or so the story goes so far.)
If mid-life hasn’t exactly lived up to the Boomers’ expectations, Boomers can at least take heart in one of Yang’s other key findings — that we tend to become happier as we grow older. “With age comes happiness. Overall levels of happiness increase with age, [regardless] of other factors.”
If we want members of the next generation to experience greater happiness as they pass through life, the takeaway message from Yang’s research is unmistakable. Resist the temptation to promise your kids that they’ll get everything they want out of life if they simply work hard(er). The recipe for happiness is both a lot simpler and a lot more complicated than that.
Instead, encourage them to diversify their happiness portfolio: to cultivate hobbies and interests outside of work; to invest in people and relationships; to champion causes they believe in; and to use their unique abilities and interests to change the world. Not only is this advice more likely to inspire a young person than the traditional “work hard” mantra; it’s advice that’s is less likely to leave a 40-something running on empty in the happiness department by the time he or she reaches age 45 — a decidedly unhappy state of affairs.
Now, over to you: What’s your take on this happiness research? Who are the happiest people you know? What makes them happy? If you’re a naturally happy person, what are your secrets? “ – Ann douglas (author – for Yahoo parenting)
How true I have found this to be over the past few years. In preparation for MTO Vancouver 2009 I am well aware that this group of grade 8 students will experience TRUE happiness by serving the homeless and working with the street people of Vancouver. Can it be said that true happiness occurs when we take our eyes off ourselves and invest our lives in others?
What a great challenge for all of us!! How happy are you? Maybe it’s time for all of us to re-evaluate where we invest our time, talents and treasure?