“Happiness Is Other People”
…or so argues Ruth Whippman the author of America the Anxious: How Our Pursuit of Happiness is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks. How is that for a title?
It certainly grabbed my attention. A plethora of phone apps, self help books, and inspirational quotes exist to promote happiness and wellbeing. Increasingly common is the theme that the search for contentment should be an individual pursuit, one sans other people. She cites the following advice examples:
- “Happiness is determined not by what’s happening around you but what is happening within you”; “
- Happiness should not depend on other people”; or
- “Happiness is an inside job”.
People are spending upwards to a billion dollars a year on this journey inward. However, one of the upshots of this self care is the fact people are spending less and less time in connection with others.
Now mind you, I’ve subscribed to these notions (some might say clichés) myself. Happiness that stresses emotional independence rather than inter-dependence. I truly believe self-reflection and introspection are important and necessary. Whippman notes, however, that academic study after study finds good social relationships are the strongest, most consistent predictors of a happy life, even going so far as to call them a necessary condition for happiness.
At this point I’m tempted to say balance might be the operative word here between our inward and outward quest for contentment. But seriously, achieving balance in any endeavor is @#%* hard! I think achieving “balance” must be the meaning of life, finding the Holy Grail or Nirvana. (Still a good goal in the end though)
At any rate…we all spend way more time with our heads buried in our phones, ipads, and computers than is probably healthy. There are findings indicating that a lack of social connection caries with it the risk of premature death, on par with smoking and obesity. Nurturing our relationships is critical. At least part of our happiness really does depend on others. Note to myself- Try talking instead of texting next time.