What makes people happy? Well, there’s no simple answer but there are clues. Look at the habits of happy people and you’ll see rather similar things People who care for others, or volunteer to help out on a regular basis, appear happier than average.
The same is true of those who learn to tap into their own particular strengths and who then use these for the benefit of others. Regular exercise and working to keep close personal friendships are other habits of happy people. Some of these we might regard as activities, yet people who are happiest also appear to have discovered meaning.
A more meaningful life results in deeper happiness because it provides a foundation for us to become more resilient. It also provides a sense of direction. Many people find that following a spiritual path provides them with inner peace but also friendship, support, a way of providing community service and prayer. Prayer is interesting not just because of its spiritual associations but because of its meditative qualities. Belief in something outside of ourselves, bigger than ourselves as individuals, appears to reduce stress and anxiety and may help to lessen the risk of depression.
A meaningful life really depends on our own perception. If we feel unsettled then taking stock might put a few things into perspective and perhaps become the catalyst for action.
How do we do this? Well one exercise to try is to imagine you are in your twilight years. Questions you could ask are: What are my accomplishments? For what do I want to be remembered? Am I satisfied with the life I’ve lived? Is my life being lived in such a way that will achieve what I’m hoping for?
Don’t worry if you struggle with the answers, the point of the exercise is to help with focus. We can spend a lot of time trying to answer such questions and we have to be realistic in our assessment of ourselves. This isn’t about wishful thinking like curing cancer or eradicating world poverty, but it is about our sense of who we are and what we might become or achieve that means something to us personally. Stay curious, be observant, and believe in yourself.