In 2002 the Public Health Agency of Canada stated that 7.9-8.6% of the population at any given time is suffering with depression (1). This number climbs as high as 11% when you include other mood disorders such bipolar disorder (2). To put this in perspective think about attending a sold out hockey game or concert at Rexall Place. Of the people attending the game somewhere between 1 330-1 852 people in that building are suffering from clinical depression or related mood disorder. More than that are simply, “feeling sad” or “not happy” and haven’t reached that clinical threshold as outlined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders.
It seems as long as humans have been walking the earth we have been trying to obtain optimal levels of happiness. Aristotle once said, “Happiness is the chief good, the one to which all other things aim.” This makes sense. We buy fancy cars, big houses, have children, get married etc. because we think doing so will make us happier. The interesting thing is what some people have coined the “Paradox of Happiness.” As a whole, over time, objective conditions in our lives have improved. We have higher standards of health, we live longer, we have more financial options, more technology etc. but we aren’t any happier (3). Isn’t that a little frightening?
On the about page, I mentioned that this blog is “above all else…[about] happiness,” I worded it that way because I think happiness is the key component that ties everything else together. We often think things like (Money) “Buying this new outfit is really going to make me happy because it will help me feel better about myself” “I’ll be happy when I can purchase a house and really set down roots” (Pregnancy, Parenting-and Marriage) “Life will be better when we get married/have kids” “I can’t wait for this stage to be over, what’s coming next is going to be so much better” (Career) ” I would be so much happier if I made more money” “My job is really sucking the life out of me but I have to pay the bills somehow” “I bet (so and so) is really happy, (s)he has the best job ever” (Home) ” I would be happier if the house was clean” “I wish my house looked like that…they have seriously got it together”
See happiness is the accumulation of all aspects of our life. I’m sure that as you were reading that last paragraph you realized that you have had one or more of those thoughts at some point. The problem is most of us don’t really know what makes us happy. Does money buy happiness? Does having children or getting married make you happy? Is any of this granola hippy stuff true…about happiness coming when you minimalize your possessions, recycle and enjoy nature? Or does having nice things make us happy? Some of the answers to these questions may surprise you. Some clichés are true, some are not. I’ll explore these issues in further happiness posts. I will also look at what the experts in happiness say. What should we be doing to ensure that we are not only living life, but loving and flourishing in life. As I said before, we only get one life and we never really know how short it can be. Watching a friend of mine battle with cancer at 19 and the struggles she has put up with really brings into perspective why it is so important to start the journey to a happy and fulfilled life right now this minute.
(2) Barlow, D.H., Durand, V.M., & Steward, S.H. (2009) Abnormal psychology: An integrative approach
(3) Matt Killigswitch: Want to be happier stay in the moment (TED Talks)
(This TED Talk will be the basis of the next post)