Can you get happier?

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Back in the day, I used to write a lot about happiness, including an article entitled “Happiness is bullshit.” (Don’t worry — I argued for “contentment” instead.) I also once spoke of the “U-Curve” of happiness.

Not that you should give a flying fuck, but it’s interesting to me to look back on these. I don’t think I was actually happy at the time. I moreso am now. Interesting. OK. That got deep.

At a broader level, though, I wouldn’t say society is very “happy.” You spend a lot of time at work, right? Most people do. Well, 85% of people in a global study don’t like their job. That’s a lot of time being unhappy.

Plus, we’ve got research that:

Doesn’t seem like a lot of happiness is walking through that door. Maybe we need a new approach.

Cue Blue Zones

Written about them once too! I think some of their stuff is trash, but in general it’s a good model for how to live longer, be successful, be happier, etc. Their founder just wrote a book, so he’s out promoting it and gave this interview to UPenn-Wharton. This part pops to me:

“My central argument when it comes to happiness is that if you try to get happier, it’s a recipe for neurosis. That usually doesn’t work. But you can set up your environment so you’re more likely to be happy,” he said. The workplace is an example. Finding a work buddy, making overtures to others and having meaningful conversations are some ways to increase job satisfaction, regardless of whether you like your position or your pay.

Let’s break this into two parts now, shall we?

Happiness at work

It can often be fleeting, because so many managers are so bad — but if you really want to be happy in a job, here’s the dirty little secret. It’s not really about the compensation. In fact, some highly-compensated jobs will make you absolutely miserable. Rather:

You’ll see studies saying that having three close work friends is equivalent to $105,000 in salary or whatever. Look, that’s bullshit. You can’t buy a car with three close friends. You can if you make $105K. But friends and connections are important. This is true.

The path to actual contentment

It’s actually pretty simple.

You need to build some type of community for yourself.

This can be many things:

  • Work
  • Neighborhood
  • Gym
  • Chess club
  • Bar (less healthy)
  • College friends
  • Spouses’ friends
  • Etc.

Community is what drives everything.

But try to make sure it’s “real” community

Another quote from the Blue Zones founder:

“A lot of us just blunder into our five best friends. They’re left over from childhood, or we met them in college, or we happened to work with them one day,” he said.

Let me chop this one up for you.

Sometimes, it’s actually really good to have a major life reversal. It’s good to go through shit.

Why?

Because this is what happens when you go through shit: you have to, by definition, figure out who cares about you.

If someone doesn’t care about you, they ain’t gonna put the bar up for you when the chips are down.

I got divorced about a year ago. Very few people were there for me.

It sucked at the time. I wrote this.

You know why it’s better a year later?

Because now I know who gives a fuck and who doesn’t, and those in the latter category are gone.

Be intentional about your friendships and the community you build.

That’s how you get happier.

If you actively try to get happier, you’ll just get depressed and neurotic. Instead, surround yourself with good people who give a shit. It works.

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