Many people believe that happiness is having fun at a party, the excitement of new experiences, the thrill and passion of a relationship or the delights of a fine meal. These are all wonderful experiences to be cherished and cultivated but they are not happiness.

These experiences are the definition of pleasure. They are experiences to have and let pass. A meal to savor, then digest. A party to enjoy then let wind down. The passion to enjoy and the warm afterglow to linger in.

Pleasure is fleeting and has to be, if it is to continue to please us, because if we have these joyful experiences all the time, our brains adapt and turn pleasure into routine. Once that happens, it takes even more to make us feel good again. Chasing pleasure is not happiness.

So, if happiness is not the same thing as pleasure, then what is happiness?

Happiness is when your life fulfils your needs

In other words, happiness comes when you feel satisfied and fulfilled. Happiness is a feeling of contentment, that life is just as it should be. Perfect happiness, enlightenment, comes when you have all of your needs satisfied.

While the perfect happiness may be hard to achieve, and even harder to maintain, happiness is not an either/or case. There are nearly limitless degrees of happiness between the bliss of enlightenment and the despair of depression. Most of us fall somewhere between, closer to the middle than the edges.

There are 9 categories that cover the range of human needs in a very general way and are intentionally overlapping, just as our thoughts and feelings overlap in our mind.

For example, the thrill of a roller-coaster ride is a mix of:

Fear (Elasticity), Joy (Pleasure), Adventure (Outlook), Shared Experience (Relationships), Safety (Environment), Upset tummies (Wellbeing), The Courage to ride (Involvement), and The Reward of having done it (Success).

All these are experienced in one event, many at the same moment in time.

  • Wellbeing – mind-body connections, aspects of your physical body that affect your mood, and vice versa
  • Environment – external factors like safety, food availability, freedom, weather, beauty, and your home
  • Pleasure – temporary experiences such as joy, love, eating, chocolate
  • Relationships – as a social species, relationships are at the foundation of what it means to be human
  • Outlook – how you approach the world through adventurousness, curiosity, and making plans
  • Meaning – having a purpose and the wisdom to understand it
  • Involvement – to be happy you have to be engaged and actively involved
  • Success – confirmation from yourself and others that what you do has value
  • Elasticity – how you recover from life’s inevitable negative events

How we achieve the balance of the 9 factors to reach happiness is down to the individual and what is important to them. Happiness is a result of what happens whilst joy is a deeper emotion of wellbeing that is not attached to circumstances. Responding to circumstances positively, feeling supported and then planning for events that make you happy is a step towards achieving happiness.

So, if you manage people, here’s how you can encourage happiness:

  • Encourage people to talk about events – this can help determine where they land on the happiness scale.
  • Supporting them through difficult times is essential, such as during periods of illness.
  • Provide a good environment for them to work in – comfortable, welcoming and check risk assessments are up-to-date.
  • Make sure people are taking the breaks they are entitled to.
  • Offer counselling services when issues occur.
  • Take the time to consider how work/life impacts on mental and physical health.
  • Proactively look after yourself and your staff – regular 1 to 1’s can help.
  • Identify absence trends early across departments or dates so that you can proactively take steps to encourage wellbeing during these periods or in these areas. Ask us for a demo of the SAM software if you cannot easily identify trends. SAM can help you save time and costs managing absences effectively.
  • Offer training opportunities to provide achievement and progression. Review our training schedule to look for opportunities to develop staff.
  • Consider holding on-site health checks to check cholesterol levels and blood pressure and/or flu jabs – we can help with this, just get in touch.
  • Provide training on how to reduce stress – ask us for information on sessions available.

Happy staff are more productive, they boost morale for others and make everyone else happier too. If you need help with counselling, wellbeing training, tracking absence, occupational health or return to work interviews please get in touch on 01924 907319. SAM and our sister company FusionHR are education specialists and would be happy to discuss your school’s needs.

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