Did you know that only 10% of our total happiness in life comes from money, status, and image? And yet, these are the things that society tells us to strive for. We’re told that these things will make us happy. They will give us a more fulfilled, flourishing life.
But 10% is a small number in the grand scheme of our lives. In the documentary “Happy,” it's explained that while 10% of our happiness comes from material goals, 50% is predetermined by our genes, and 40% is influenced by our day to day decisions. This includes the way we choose to react to a situation, as well as the folks we surround ourselves with.
What made us happy before the invention of television, fancy clothing, and the internet? Community. Family. Friends. Social connections. And studies are showing that today, these are still the things that make us the happiest.
Thousands of years ago, we had complete dependence on each other and our natural environment. We felt responsible for the well being and happiness of our neighbor, so we did our best to cooperate and live with compassion. When a member of the tribe was ill, the entire community worked to bring them back to health – even the children pitched in with songs and dance. Meals were shared, work was shared, and if one went without, so did everyone else.
If we carried out acts like this today, we would be provided with true happiness – true and honest love, compassion, and cooperation. These acts are our true nature! Instinct! They are what comes naturally to us!
In fact, when a group of people were given the choice to cooperate or choose conflict, all chose to cooperate. When they were acting with cooperation and compassion, their brains released a high amount of dopamine – the body’s natural “feel-good” chemical. The levels of dopamine were comparable to those of someone taking a stimulating drug. How’s that for a natural high?
Currently, the happiest country in the world is Denmark. Not surprisingly, co-housing is incredibly popular there. Many families will choose to live together in a large building, rather than live apart. They share, connect, laugh together, and eat their evening meals as a group. Each family is responsible for 4 meals a month – this gives everyone else the opportunity to dedicate their time to their own families on their days away from the kitchen. It’s a successful and familiar system; it mirrors the way we used to live, and the way we should be living all over the globe.
So how can you instantly raise your levels of happiness?
Become involved in your community. Go to a Farmer’s Market. Talk to everyone you see. Join a club, a church, or a group. Make extra cookies and share with your neighbor. Move closer to your family. Eat together. Live together. Laugh together. Do daily acts of random kindness, like putting an extra quarter in a parking meter. Count your blessings. Be thankful, thankful, thankful. Love unconditionally, with your whole being.