Seeking Happiness: Focus on Relationships

The Oxford Happiness Inventory and a battery of personality measures were completed by 171 subjects. The results showed predicted positive correlations for happiness with satisfaction with life, self-esteem, and sociability and negative correlations of happiness with embarrass-ability, loneliness, shyness, and social anxiety. 

Four predictors (satisfaction with life, shyness, loneliness, and sociability) accounted for 58% of the variance in happiness scores.

1.  Freedom and personal autonomy

Daniel H. Pink is the author of a number of provocative bestselling books on the changing world of work.   Money can be a powerful motivator, but as studies performed by universities around the country (and this video) explain, rewarding people financially only works to a point. Beyond that, you need autonomy and purpose. Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

Freedom and personal autonomy are more important to people’s well-being than money. According to a meta-analysis of data from 63 countries published by the American Psychological Association, Money Can’t Buy Happiness: Individualism is a Stronger Predictor of Well-Being Than Wealth. In short, they found, “Money leads to autonomy but it does not add to well-being or happiness.”

2. Cultivating positive emotions

According to a study in July 2009 by a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill psychologist and colleagues,  people who seed their life with frequent moments of positive emotions increase their resilience against challenges. “This study shows that if happiness is something you want out of life, then focusing daily on the small moments and cultivating positive emotions is the way to go,” —  Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D.

3. Practicing kindness

Making small talk is often an impossible task to a depressed or hopeless person. Thinking happy thoughts, focusing on the good and downplaying the bad is believed to accelerate recovery from depression, bolster resilience during a crisis and improve overall mental health, but we can all benefit from the company of others.

The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention…. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words. — Rachel Naomi Remen

4. Meaningful social relationships

Psychologists have discovered what appears to increase happiness and it’s age-old wisdom. “The strongest predictor of happiness is not money, or external recognition through success or fame,” Gruber says in Happiness Has a Dark Side. “It’s having meaningful social relationships.” That means the best way to increase your happiness is to stop worrying about being happy and instead divert your energy to nurturing the social bonds you have with other people. “If there’s one thing you’re going to focus on, focus on that. Let all the rest come as it will.”


Let a kind word warm you when your thoughts turn cold. — A Little Kindness

That aphorism is really about about openness, allowing oneself to be comforted by another.  Happiness is and inside job and I’m an intensely private person. I have always struggled to be open to receiving comfort.  I am learning that when I’m feeling blue listening to kind and supportive words can help motivate me to do the inside work required to lift myself out of a depression. I am learning how to accept kindness and it’s not easy. Do you find that it’s easier to be kind, than it is to accept kindness?


  1. HI timethief….I’m revisiting this post from your links…such good ideas in here! many good reminders…and since I’m trying to enhance these in my own life, I’m going to keep an eye on these points! I’m in a 6 week “Taking in the Good” class…a “beta/pilot” class with Rick Hanson (Buddha’s Brain) that is all about that second point, enhancing the positives. The class is amazing and I’m learning so much tying in with these ideas… thanks your ideas! And about your question…it’s way easier for me to be kind than to take in kindness…. and when people are kind, which, actually, is really often, I seem to have difficulty actually taking it in….but now I’m learning more ways/methods to do that, so maybe some shifting???..maybe so….. hope so! : ) Kathy

  2. Your #2 point I’ve learned personally. I used to be a much more negative person although I wouldn’t have thought that at the time. Learning to think positively and contintuously push negative thoughts aside has been a life changer. It can also be hard work. .
    I would advise people to pay attention to the things they feed their souls. Negative movies, negative tv but most of all, negative self speak and gossip will only cause problems and depression. Make a conscious effort to instead think and speak and surround yourself with positivity and its amazing how your life will eventually change.

  3. Firstly, I absolutely love your new banner!

    I think some of us are also fiercely independent, TiTi. We somehow see letting others in when we need help or kindness as a weakness. We shouldn’t and it takes a LONG time to learn. As we age, we gain wisdom and we learn we don’t have to be so “I’m all right, Jack” about everything.

    • I was raised to be responsible for all others younger than me in the family (nuclear and extended) as I was eldest child. I was also raised to be independent, resourceful and stoic. As you say above I was raised to think of asking for and/or accepting help and kindness as a weakness ie. an evasion of my responsibility to take care of myself and those who depended on me.

      As an adult I have been learning how to accept kindness from others. And as it’s an important life lesson it keeps being presented to me over again every time I revert to my old ways. I’m working on accepting kindness gracefully as well as developing my small talk skills this year.

      P.S. Thanks for the compliment. The new banner is actually an older one that I revived and resized when I changed to this theme. I’m almost livid about the infinite scrolling change made to Twenty Eleven and Twenty Ten themes without an opt out option being provided. I switched themes on my other blog yesterday because of it which took time, of course, and threw my right off my schedule.

  4. TT, a wonderful post about personal happiness!

    I agree with every point you listed and especially like the Rachel Naomi Remen’s quote about listening. I was a terrible listener when I was young (but I did have many friends simply because I was kind in a “special way”), and thanks to my girlfriend back then who kept pointing that out, and I have been consciously practicing listening for a very long time (I even put a sticker “don’t interrupt people’s talking” on my bathroom mirror).

    It happened that I just wrote a short post in my blog which says “I suppose it is our nature to be kind to others. However, to someone (probably minority), it could be a life time lesson to learn how to be kind to themselves.” So for answer your question, I actually never found difficult to be kind to others, but only in very recent years in my life, I found I did not treat myself with the same kindness I treated others. However, I suppose I am looking this subject from a different perspective. Essentially, I agree with what you promote in your blog- practice kindness to others.

    I really like the way you interpret np’s aphorism. I have not thought like that, but yes, you revealed a very important aspect of it.

  5. I can very much see personal relationships being more important than money, though you do need enough to meet your basic needs. Unfortunately, some people’s ‘needs’ are much greater than others. Low expectations can also increase happiness!

    • Janene,
      You always say something that makes me smile. In this age of entitlement and information overload we are bombarded with messages urging us to have high expectations so lowering our expectations would amount to exercising some common sense.

  6. These are really good points!
    I believe in the power of positive thinking. Someone recently wrote in a blog that we should all work on having ways of coping with the bad stuff that happens by preparing an arsenal. I am working on mine. I tend to move on pretty quickly anyway….who has time to dwell on the downers in life.
    Great post!

    • Some personality types find it easy to generate positive thoughts and are naturally inclined to do so. For others it’s a skill that must be cultivated.

      P.S. Thanks for the compliment on the header.

  7. It’s probably different for you timethief since you live somewhere on an island and know folks for a long time/have some close friends.

    For some of us, after moving to different cities/areas of the world, plus getting older, it gets more complicated to make face to face friends easily, sustain such friendships for a long time and feel social in a manner that one is not always showing only 1 facet of oneself.

    I guess I view kindness as the very best I already get from face to face friends (I have a few, not a huge group but people who have known me for over 25 yrs.) plus at a 2nd level of kindness from ‘newer’ friends who know me only from a shared interest/limited set of shared interests/values but not much more. But the latter is ok too, since some of that might evolve into something deeper.

    Kindness gets increasingly valued especially when it is expressed in a manner that goes beyond just facebook, twitter or email these days.

    • My family moved many times and I had lots of experience with severed relationships due to moving when I was young. I have a few close friends but in these last 8 years I have lost 3 friends unexpectedly. I have also lost my parents.

      Getting older has also been a barrier to me making new friends because I don’t get out as much when I did when I was younger. However, when I look deep within I haven’t been lonely and haven’t been inclined to pursue new friendships when I could have. That’s what I intend to change. I intend to be more open to small talk and to making new friends that I have been in the past.

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