The pursuit of happiness is inherently American. Our founding fathers called it a pursuit because it is not guaranteed, it never is guaranteed. But the reason someone is happy, what exactly makes them happy, is different from person to person.
For some, it’s their relationships that make them happy: “my friends. It’s one thing that’s always constant in [my] life. It’s always reliable…[I] can relate……and [my] friends understand what [I’m] going through in life. It’s just a more comfortable situation,” Alvernia student Ean Roche said.
But for Alvernia student Sam Rupp it was different: “I would say the thing that makes me the most happy is bringing happiness to other people’s lives and basically just anything that I can do that is enjoyable and I can feel proud of.”
The converse of happiness is, obviously, unhappiness. So what is it exactly that helps people become happy when their faced with unhappiness?
Roche was matter of fact in his solution to unhappiness: “In the past I’ve kind of just let things go that weren’t bringing me happiness. And if it wasn’t a good fit for me, for my happiness, or whatever it may be…you just kind of have to let it go and stick with what does make you happy.”
Rupp, rather than letting go of negativity, instead tried to change his thoughts: “I try and think positive thoughts and try and do something to bring myself away from those negative thoughts. For me working out, or anything to make me forget about whatever it is that’s making me unhappy.”
Oftentimes the environment one finds themselves in is a direct factor to their level of happiness.
“My environment…plays a large part in how happy that I am. Whether it be the people I surround myself with, or my living situation, or…a multitude of different factors, but it definitely plays a very large part,” Rupp said.
“If you’re in a negative environment, surrounding yourself with negative things, you’re not going to be happy and you have to take control of that and change the situation if it needs to be changed,” Roche said.
For some students at Alvernia it’s difficult to figure out how their personal happiness will coincide with their future goals but Ean Roche and Sam Rupp had distinct plans on how they plan on remaining happy.
Rupp said he plans on remaining happy “By setting myself up for success in as many different areas of my life as I possibly can whether that be job prospects in the future…making sure that I’m finishing school…[or] making sure that I have a solid social circle with friends that love and care about me.”
Roche said he plans on remaining happy by “staying true to myself and not letting anyone or anything get in the way of me living my truth.”
Roche and Rupp spoke about four major things: what makes them happy, how their environment affects their happiness, how they get happy if they’re something other than happy, and how they will remain happy in the future. Both men hinted at how important relationships were to their happiness. Harvard has been conducting the longest ongoing study on happiness in history and they have found that relationships are extremely important to one’s own happiness.
Robert Waldinger, psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, is the current director of the study. He told of profound effects loneliness has on someone: “Those who kept warm relationships got to live longer and happier…and the loners often died earlier. ‘Loneliness kills…It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism,” Waldinger said.
Happiness is a multifaceted component of the human experience. There are so many things that make people happy. Sometimes we understand what makes each other happy but then there are other times when a person derives happiness from something for no comprehensible reason. Happiness can be found easily but other times is nowhere to be seen. But one thing remains clear: happiness is aided by the people we surround ourselves with and the attitude with which we carry ourselves.