Column: The secret to happiness


Commentary by Lorene Burkhart

What leads to happiness? Is it more money, career advancement, changing location? If not the above, then what is the key?

Tech companies are working on one solution by addressing the problem of loneliness. They have designed virtual reality experiences, artificially intelligent companions and robotic pets (no dog walking in the snow) to replicate human contact. Studies have shown that loneliness causes health problems in the elderly. Unfortunately, they are expensive and require expert assistance. An inexpensive way to fall asleep is recalling in detail a happy memory.

Lists that show the “happiest countries” always have the Scandinavians at the top. Maybe the reason the U.S. isn’t at the top is because happiness is best created by making time for the things that really matter in life. Americans seem to have a problem with doing that. Finding balance when there are five things screaming for your attention takes a calmness that is often missing. It takes grit, determination and acting rationally in the face of adversity to find a balance.

A Harvard study traced hundreds of adults for 85 years to find out what makes people healthy and happy. Guess what the study consistently showed? It wasn’t money or big jobs; it was good relationships. It didn’t matter whether the participants were wealthy, middle class or low income. The people who were most satisfied at age 50 were also the most satisfied at age 80. They knew how to maintain friends and develop close family bonds – an investment that just kept paying.

Can money buy happiness? A recent article in my Rotary magazine finishes that sentence by concluding: “it depends.” The author says that if you connect your money to a worthy cause you won’t be disappointed but will cherish every dollar spent.

There you have it! The secret to happiness is good relationships and using your money to benefit others. It works for every age.