Recently I read a theory of happiness ( based on research studies) that summarized and discussed the four most important areas that contribute to feeling happy. I have found this to be very useful in the therapy that I do and would like to share this with you. The four attributes that seemed to contribute most to feelings of satisfaction and well-being in life were the following: competence,autonomy, connection and security.
COMPETENCE: It is important to feel like a productive and competent person who has something to contribute in life. Having a talent or working hard to develop a skill brings a feeling of mastery that increases our good feelings about ourselves. When our abilities are noticed and appreciated by others,we feel even better. Watch a child who is working hard to learn to tie a shoe or throw a ball and then notice the excitement this child has when he or she accomplishes this. As adults we know how it feels to have and utilize a skill. We can forget how vulnerable we feel when we put ourselves in situations of trying to learn a new skill and we can also forget how rewarding and satisfying it is to learn something new.
AUTONOMY: Most of us also need to feel as though we are doing things of our own free will and by choice. There is a significant increase in happiness when a country increases civil liberties for its population. As humans, we want to feel free and self-sufficient. Autonomy means that we have a sense of choosing our lives and activities and doing things are meaningful to us. No one likes to feel controlled and even when we are performing assigned tasks in our work life or our home life, we can choose to feel that we are doing these things because we have want them for the inner and outer rewards they bring us. Some of these rewards are things such as earning money or having clean clothes to wear. The more you tell yourself you are being forced to do something, the less happy you will be. In the movie “Invictus”, Nelson Mandela maintained his sense of freedom by reciting a poem with the following lines: I am the master of my fate:I am the captain of my soul.
CONNECTION: Because we are humans, we are basically social animals. Feeling connected to others is essential to our survival and well-being. When we are disconnected,lonely or feel alienated from others, we are unhappy. Human infants must have physical and emotional contact or they die of “failure to thrive.” It is easy to forget how important and fundamental connection is to our well-being if we are caught up in the belief that we should be able to do everything without depending on others.
SECURITY: A feeling of security comes when we feel we have enough resources to meet our needs. The increase in happiness that comes when one is lifted out of poverty is enormous. We cannot be happy when we feel our day to day survival needs might not be met. Why then can we feel insecure when we do have resources? Past traumas of not having enough or worries that we will lose what we do have can undermine our feelings of happiness and well-being. We need to understand how much is “enough” and what is truly secure and not secure in our worlds.
Please feel free to contact me. to arrange coaching, consulting, counseling or therapy services if these areas are of concern to you.