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What Does It Take To Be Happy?



I regularly speak with people interested in “feeling happier.” I can’t make someone feel happier. But, I can help them implement research-based methods that will help them feel happier. Feeling more pleasant emotions more frequently and with greater intensity is a common outcome of evidence-based therapies (such as cognitive behavioral therapy or “CBT”).


But from a more micro perspective, it is helpful to highlight some of the tried-and-true habits leading to increased happiness worldwide (as these will likely resurface within therapy sessions). For this, we look to Finland: the happiest nation in the world. Psychologists have explored the behaviors and social constructs that contribute to that claim. In particular, Dr. Frank Martela has written about his research in the field of psychology and what has been identified as contributing to greater levels of happiness.


For starters, the people of Finland reportedly are more adept at avoiding social comparisons. We know that our perception of our position in society impacts us emotionally. This tendency to compare ourselves to others is a common cognitive pitfall. Within CBT, we regularly work to understand the impact of where we place our attention. For example, if we focus on our colleague’s recent promotion, we may lose appreciation of the stability and fulfilling nature of our own job. This isn’t to say that we must bury our heads in the sand and ignore the world around us. It does, however, highlight the importance of reducing the frequency with which we evaluate the lives of others as compared to our own.


In Finland, individuals also often have a stronger connection with the physical world around them (i.e., nature). Exposure to nature increases positive affect and decreases negative affect! In other words, getting outside is emotionally healthy for us. It’s quite easy to spend hours both indoors and behind a screen. Yet, it costs us nothing to take a break, walk outside, and let nature do its job.


Finally, communal trust is valued in Finland. Dr. Martela highlights the manner in which trust allows us to operate with more authenticity and freedom. Through developing trust within a community, we are then able to live life with what can be perceived as greater social support. Believing that others will be there for us in times of need (and knowing that we’ll do our best to be there for them) leads to a perception of connectedness. Humans are social beings; the happiness of those building and maintaining communal trust emphasizes the importance of ensuring our own social connections are rich.


Roswell Psychology is here to help you increase your own happiness via evidence-based therapy. Per research from the Universities of Manchester and Warwick, the happiness gains experienced from receiving psychotherapy versus those we receive from financial compensation are startling. It is at least 32 times more cost-effective to receive therapy! Reach out today if you are interested in a complimentary consultation.


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