Happily Ever After
Women's Health South Africa|November 2019
Happily Ever After
For many, true contentment feels as unattainable as a storybook ending. But science shows it’s possible for anyone – even you – to find more bliss. All you have to do is flip the script, using these new life-enhancing rules
Katie Heaney

Tell me somethin’, girl/Are you happy in this modern world?” That’s the question – posed in Bradley Cooper’s whiskey-soaked rocker croak – in A Star Is Born’s “Shallow.” The answer most of us might give? “Meh, not so much.” At least if we go by a recent poll that found only 33 percent of people say they’re happy.

Which is pretty ironic because, as a culture, we’re kind of obsessed with the emotion. Nearly 550 million Instagram posts are tagged #Happy, while 281 000 and counting, attempting to upstage the rest, are tagged #TrueHappiness. Selfhelp books saw a 14 percent sales increase between 2017 and 2018, while other genres saw a drop. Yale University’s course on the subject is the most popular in the university’s history. But that very fixation on positive vibes actually keeps us further from our goal, says Dr Emma Seppälä, science director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education and author of The Happiness Track. “We believe we should never be sad,” she says. “But if you don’t make room for pain, you’re also not able to be happy.” And when we presume happiness is a state we can remain in permanently, we’re bound to feel disappointed with anything less – especially when we compare ourselves to others’ social media, which, let’s face it, rarely spotlight life’s not-so-joyous moments.

So what does happiness really look like – and how can you get more of it, more often? We asked happiness researchers (yep, a real thing!) to help us find the magical ingredients. What they told us: it’s not as hard as you think – and you’ve already got the tools you need. Let’s get cooking.

Spend Happy

Ask most people what they’d do with a no-strings-attached R10 000 cash prize and many of them would pick something material, like a long-desired pair of status shoes. But shiny new goods bring only short-term elation. For sustainable pleasure, fork out for one (or more) of the following

Time

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November 2019