What Makes People Happy

By November 13, 2013How To Be Happy

What makes people happy? Not what most people think

Hello, my name is Noah Elkrief, and in this blog post, I’m going to talk about what makes people happy. And I’ll tell you right now, it’s not what most people think it is. What do most people think creates happiness? Well, most people tend to think that happiness is created by activities, situations, people, and that type of thing. But, just because most people believe that, it doesn’t mean it’s true. Therefore, the first thing we are going to do here is simply investigate whether this assumption of what makes people happy is true.

Why activities can’t make people happy

When we engage in an activity that we like such as playing a sport, dancing, drawing, playing music, doing yoga or something like that, it seems to make us happy. But, if the activity itself directly created happiness then we would have no choice but to be happy every single time we engage in that activity for every moment that we engage in it.

But, are you happy in every moment that you engage in the activity that you like? Of course not. If you’re worrying about the future, insecure about yourself, or frustrated with what’s going on, you can clearly be unhappy while engaged in your even your favorite activity. Let’s compare this to a factual cause and effect relationship. Fire burns skin. If you put your finger to a flame, the skin on your finger will burn. Regardless of whether you think about how great everything is or how terrible everything is, your finger will continue to burn. On the other hand, while engaging an activity you like, if you think about the future, judge others, or think negative thoughts about yourself, you will be unhappy.

If you can be happy or completely unhappy while involved in this specific activity, the activity itself can’t be what’s creating your happiness or unhappiness.

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Why situations can’t make people happy

The next thing that people tend to think makes people happy is situations. For example, it may seem as though moving to a mansion can make people happy. But let’s see, let’s investigate. If living in a mansion or buying a mansion created happiness, it would create the same amount of happiness for everyone. That’s the way cause and effect works right? If a specific mansion created happiness, then the exact same mansion would create the same exact emotional effect on each person. Now, let’s put it to the test.

If somebody was moving from a small apartment to a big mansion, how would they feel? They might be ecstatic, and be very happy. But, now imagine someone else that is moving from another mansion which is the same size into this mansion. How would they feel? They might a little excited about something new, but they certainly wouldn’t have the same level of happiness as the first person. Now, imagine another person that is moving from an even bigger mansion that they loved, but not had to move to this mansion because they couldn’t afford their old mansion any more. How would they feel? Disappointed and sad perhaps. If moving into the same exact mansion could correspond with completely different emotions for different people, then it is clear that the mansion (the situation) itself can’t be what’s creating the happiness.

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Why people and marriage can’t make people happy

If something creates happiness, then as long as we had that thing, we would be happy. If a flame creates heat, then as long as the flame is on, it will create heat. But, what about people and marriage?

When someone first asks you to get married, or says “I do” in the wedding, it would seem as though that creates happiness, right? Getting married seems to create happiness. But, if getting married directly created happiness, then as long as we were married, we’d have to be happy. But, that’s not the way it works, is it? In the beginning, there is often excitement, happiness, and relief, but then happiness comes and goes, and we have all different sorts of emotions.

In addition, many people aren’t happy and excited about getting married because they view it as the end of their freedom. If marriage itself created happiness, then everyone would be happy when they got married.

The same can be applied to all relationships. If spending time with a person created happiness, then we would have no choice but to be happy in every moment that we are with them. But, clearly, that isn’t the case.

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What makes people happy? 2 different things – with 2 very different qualities

Now that we have looked at what doesn’t make us happy; let’s now see what makes people happy. Broadly speaking, there are two different causes of happiness: 1) Positive thoughts. 2) An absence of thoughts. The experience of these two types of happiness are very different, and have very different implications on our overall happiness in life.

The happiness created by positive thoughts

First, let’s look at a few examples of when positive thoughts create happiness. If you score in 95th percentile on an exam, afterwards you might think, “Yay! I did well”, “I did great!”, or “I was successful” and those positive thoughts will make you feel happy. If you get a promotion, you may think “This is great” or “This is wonderful for my life”, which will create some happiness. or if somebody asks us out or if someone says they love us then you think of just positive thoughts “He love me” “I’m lovable” “I am likeable” and this positive thoughts make us happy.

The happiness created by positive thoughts is often experienced as a moment of pleasure, excitement, or pride. However, there are a number of reasons why this type of happiness is not very strong or very fulfilling. To discover why positive thoughts aren’t very fulfilling, check out my other blog post here.

The happiness created by the absence of thoughts

The other type of happiness is a result of an absence of thoughts. In other words, you experience it in a moment where you’re not thinking. This absence of thoughts broadly occurs in two different ways. The first is when we’re distracted from our thoughts, and the second is when we lose specific thoughts. Now, I’ll explain what both those are in more detail.

1) Happiness when we’re distracted from thoughts:

So, being distracted from thoughts is what happens

When we’re engaging in an activity with our full attention, and are completely immersed in it, we are distracted from all the thoughts in our head. We’re not thinking about what we have to do, what we should be doing, what might happen, or why we aren’t good enough. When an activity takes all of our attention, we can’t give attention to our thoughts about anything else. That is why we are happy when engaging in hobbies.

This can happen playing our children, spending time with our partner, hanging out with friends, watching TV, playing sports, listening to music, or anything. We enjoy this stuff because it takes us way from all of the thoughts that make us unhappy.

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2) Happiness when we lose some thoughts that made us unhappy:

It seems as though getting what we want makes us happy. But, in fact, losing the thoughts that were making us unhappy leaves us happy. And the happiness that comes from losing the thoughts that made us unhappy is most often experienced when we get something that we’ve wanted for a while.

To give you an example of this, imagine that you are about to go on a job interview. You have been feeling shame because of your thought “my job isn’t good enough”. You have anxiety because of your thoughts about how it would be bad if you never get a better job. Then, if you go to the interview, and in the moment that they say you got the offer, you got the job, you’re going to experience a real overwhelming happiness. It may seem that it’s created by the situation itself or by positive thoughts but it’s not. In that first moment, what you’re feeling is a real strong happiness and relief because you lost a bunch of the thoughts that were making you unhappy. The thoughts that were creating your shame and anxiety will be gone for the moment.

Why a marriage proposal corresponds with extreme happiness

Most of us were taught that you should be in a relationship, you should get married, it’s best to get married, it’s best to have a family, and marriage is the key to happiness. Since we learn that, we inherently and unconsciously believe it’s not good enough to be single, it’s bad to be single, it’s bad that I’m not in a relationship (especially after your mid 20s). Once you believe those thoughts, you begin to feel lacking, insufficient, and shame. Then, on top of that, you have that fear and anxiety that it would be bad if I don’t get married.

In addition to that, you will have a lot of thoughts about “is this the one or is this not the one?”, you will spent an incredible amount of mental energy looking for the guy/girl, worrying about how you look in order to impress guy/girl, and worrying about whether the person you are with loves you or not.

In the moment that someone proposes to you, boom, all of those disappear. You don’t have to feel ashamed about being single, fear not getting married, worry about whether he loves you, or anything else in that moment. And the loss of these thoughts is a huge relief. It’s this overwhelming joy of just no thought.

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What makes people happy

What makes people happy? Well, those are the two major different types of happiness. Even though everyone has told us that circumstances and situations create happiness, it is really all about thoughts. In the coming videos, I’ll be talking more about what makes people happy, how to be happy, and all of that type of stuff.

I hope you enjoy this blog post about what makes people happy, and you found it helpful.

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