5 things we’ve learned about happiness from Conversations at The Royal
“Conversations at The Royal” is a free public education series that offers thought-provoking insight into mental health issues. The lectures — held almost every month — are delivered by mental health researchers, clinicians and clients at The Royal.
These tips are from a popular session called “Happiness: How to find it in a busy, divided and confused world,” by Dr. Timothy Lau, a psychiatrist in The Royal’s Geriatric Psychiatry Program.
1. MONEY CAN’T BUY HAPPINESS; IT’S PEOPLE THAT MAKE THE DIFFERENCE.
It’s hard to be happy without water, food, and shelter, but beyond a certain income level happiness statistically doesn’t increase. Materialism encourages us to value stuff and use people, when really we’re happiest when loving people and using stuff. Relationships also improve our overall wellbeing; strong relationships at age 50 predict survival and overall health in a way that other factors such as blood pressure and weight cannot.
2. PLEASURE ISN’T HAPPINESS, AND PAIN ISN’T UNHAPPINESS.
People who pursue constant pleasure are seldom happy. Pain builds resilience — the ability to ‘bounce back’ — and happy people tend to be resilient. Their resilience comes, in part, from grappling with adversity, even severe trauma, and choosing to pursue personal growth.
3. PURPOSE AND HAPPINESS GO HAND-IN-HAND.
When we decide that we’re here for a particular purpose, it changes how we live. Think of that garbage you took out last week. If you did it because you love the person whose garbage you were taking out, then you can draw meaning and fulfilment from that simple task. We can change our lives by applying purpose to what we do.
4. HAPPINESS COMES FROM CHANGING THE THINGS WE’RE ABLE TO CHANGE.
We need to accept that we can’t control everything, but that doesn’t mean we are helpless. With courage, we can choose our attitude and purpose and work to align our lives with those things. Choose to believe in your ability to make change.
5. HAPPINESS IS LIVING ACCORDING TO YOUR CONSCIENCE.
If you’re not living according to what you know to be right, you won’t be happy, no matter how much you’re achieving.