Be happy: 4 tips from happiness research, philosophy & Co.

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Can we learn to be happier – or even plan happiness? We asked a happiness researcher, a philosopher, a Buddhism expert and a career consultant for their opinion – and tips for a happy life.

Compared to other nations, we Germans are quite lucky. At least that’s the conclusion of a survey by the opinion research institute Ipsos. In 2020, 73 percent of the Germans surveyed stated that they were very or at least fairly “happy”. The Ipsos Institute also surveyed people in 26 other countries. Germany came in ninth, behind China and Sweden but ahead of the United States.

But if you look at the study from a different perspective, a sad picture emerges: 27 percent, i.e. more than every fourth German, would not feel particularly happy at the time of the survey. With almost 83 million citizens, that would mean around 22 million unhappy people.

The pandemic has also contributed to making people feel unhappier. Life satisfaction is recovering, but only slightly so far.

How can these people change something about their situation? Is it even possible to influence how happy you feel – and if so, what do you have to change to become happier? We asked experts in happiness research, philosophy, Buddhism and career counseling.

Happiness is not the same as happiness

Do we have an impact on how happy we are? That depends on how you define “happiness”. The religious scholar and Buddhism expert Prof. Dr. Michael von Brück explains: “If you’re lucky, you differentiate between what you can expect and what you can bring about yourself.” So you have no influence on the first, but you can on the second.

However, how happy we feel does not depend on chance. According to von Brück, we decide for ourselves how we react to external influences. For example, we can be happier when we consciously feel grateful for different aspects of our lives. It can also be very small things, for example the breath that flows through our body.

But even if things don’t go well, we can still get something good out of it. “Frustration can, for example, strengthen the will,” explains von Brück. He quotes the Dalai Lama: “Even my opponent makes me stronger.”

To be happy: that’s what Aristotle says

Can we control how happy we are? Many philosophers have pondered this question. “According to Aristotle, happiness has to be learned,” explains Dr. Rebecca Gutwald from the Munich School of Philosophy in conversation with Utopia. “For him, happiness means living a morally good life. How to do that, you have to learn from other people and practice from childhood.”

For Aristotle, for example, “moral” means living in moderation. “You don’t have to give up completely,” explains Dr. Gutwald. Instead, you should reflect on what you really need to live.

Also read: How many panties can I have? A philosophical look at minimalism

Happiness researcher: We have to set meaningful and realistic goals

Prof. Dr. Karlheinz Ruckriegel is a happiness researcher. For fifteen years he has been researching the conditions under which people feel happy. “On the one hand, the emotional balance has to be right,” he explains. Throughout the day we should have significantly more positive feelings than negative ones. “On the other hand, cognitive well-being is important. It’s about how satisfied you are with your own life.”

How satisfied you feel depends on whether you set meaningful and realistic goals. “For us humans, meaningful goals are personal growth, the success of interpersonal relationships and commitment to society. These three aspects best satisfy our basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and belonging—not money, beauty, or popularity.”

Also read: Do good: 9 charitable ideas

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In order to be happy, you have to set meaningful goals. (Photo: CC0/ Pixabay.de)

Happy at work: A positive attitude is important

And at work? You often have to dance to the whistle of your superiors – that frustrates many. Still, we can at least partially influence how happy we feel at work. Career coach Elke Wagenpfeil explains: “The inner attitude can influence how happy we are in the current job. We often focus more energy on the negative, for example on that one difficult colleague. We forget how nice the rest of the team is.” She also advises to always be attentive and open. In this way we can better recognize (professional) opportunities and influence our happiness.

Be happy: 4 tips for a happy life

Happiness researchers, philosophers, religious experts and careers advisors seem to agree: Yes, we can at least partially control how happy we are. Anyone who feels dissatisfied or unhappy has the opportunity to do something about it. The experts have the following tips:

  1. Focus on the good. The news in the media can sometimes be quite depressing: it’s always about violence, suffering and conflict. Buddhism expert von Brück advises: “Realize that such reports only depict part of reality.” There are just as many good sides – NGOs and educational initiatives, for example. Von Brück advises: “Also think about how you can get involved. Becoming active enables lasting happiness.”

  2. Reinforce positive feelings. Happiness researcher Ruckriegel, for example, recommends keeping a gratitude journal. “Two to three times a week in the evening, think about three things that happened during the day that you are grateful for. Then after a few months you will notice that you perceive the positives much more strongly and thus have a more realistic view of life.” The happiness researcher also advises to carefully dose negative feelings: “Getting excited in traffic jams simply doesn’t make sense.”

  3. Deal with the topic. To be permanently happy – that is an important topic in philosophy. Philosophy lecturer Gutwald advises: Be courageous and look for meaning. Take your time, do your research and think for yourself. For example, you can discuss with others in a philosophy café (or online) and find answers that way.

  4. Find a job that makes you happy. According to career coach Wagenpfeil, this should ideally meet the following conditions: “Firstly, your own actions and those of the company should make sense to you. Second, live what you love to do and are good at. Third, work in a positive working environment where you are valued. And fourthly, you should be able to develop yourself further on the job.” In order to find a new job like this, it is important that you become clear about your own talents, values ​​and motives and that you look for the right environment for them. By the way: You can find good, sustainable jobs on green job exchanges.

Can you plan happiness?  That's what experts say about it
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Read more on Techzle.com:

  • School subject happiness teaches students how to live contentedly
  • Brain researcher Gerald Hüther: “Life does not consist of fulfilling any consumer needs”
  • Think positive: How to learn and get rid of negative thoughts

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