I watched the PBS show Emotional Life last night. It covered a lot of issues around the subject of love, relationships and happiness. The host of the show, Daniel Gilbert, wrote a book on happiness entitled "Stumbling on Happiness." I haven't read the book but did glean a few points that were brought up last night.
The first was that to be happy, I need to be in a romantic relationship. The caveat to relationship happiness is that in married relationships, satisfaction ebbs over time. (Studies also show that for those divorced, the happiness factor declines markedly). So according to Mr. Gilbert, the day people get married, they're extremely satisfied with the relationship, and it goes downhill from there. That's because relationships take hard work which translates to raising a family, maintaining a household, etc. However, once the children are grown, it appears that happiness increases back to an initial level or close to it.
Even though children are a source of happiness, they tend to crowd out other things that used to make the couple happy. There is less time to do "couple like" things. Less time is spent going out with friends, making love, going on a "date", and relaxing. In short, many of the things that used to be sources of happiness are no longer there (Note: no distinction was made here about people who are in 12 step programs and how they scored on the happiness scale).
So if you're like me and don't have children, then that appears to be a plus. Or if you have children and they are on their own, then the happiness factor seems to be on the upswing. Another plus is that as one grows older, happiness tends to increase. So if my health holds out, research indicates that I will get happier over time. Whew, I'm glad about that.
I don't know if I learned anything really new from the program; however, the interactions of the couples shown clearly indicated to me that communication, trust, and shared activities were three very important attributes for staying emotionally happy.
I thought that I'd end the post with ten things that make me really happy:
- Doing an activity with the person I love that we both enjoy
- Going on vacation to an interesting place
- Reading a great book, preferably in front of a warm fire and lying on the couch
- Having a photograph turn out of something that I really wanted a photograph of
- Goofy dogs and warm cats that really like me
- A good joke
- Being around someone who has a great laugh and a sense of humor
- Getting something to work that is technologically difficult
- Eating a great meal at a restaurant
- Wearing clothes that are comfortable