You achieve and maintain happiness via the same route: relationships with people with whom you can behave and act kindly. The operative word is kindly and clearly.
To write my book, The Power of Being Articulate
I studied what my psychologist friends tell me are the definitive texts on happiness, predominantly Positive Psychology by Dr. Alan Carr, Authentic Happiness by Dr. Martin Seligman, and The Lost Art of Listening by Dr. Michael Nichols. I found a great deal of solid information on the causes of happiness and social success, and a small part of the evidence is statistical, while far more of it is empirical and anecdotal.
Drs. Carr, Seligman, and Nichols agree that relationships, whether romantic or platonic, close or casual, are, if not the most important key to happiness, certainly right up there as one of the more important.
Seligman expresses the importance of relationships this way: “Very happy people differ markedly from both average and unhappy people in that they all lead a rich and fulfilling social life…”
I’ve noticed that my articulate friends are the most sociable, so I conclude that sociability is a foundation for happiness. They socialize with people and groups with disparate interests and discuss meaningful concepts in ways that they can be understood. But as Seligman points out, “[I]t could be that people who are happier to begin with are better liked, and they therefore have a rich social life and are more likely to marry…”
“Marriage” in this context encompasses the usual husband-wife in addition to other close romantic relationships, for example couples of the same or opposite sex living together or apart.
To summarize, if you want to lastingly raise your level of happiness by changing the external circumstances of your life, you should:
- Live in a wealthy democracy , not a dictatorship.
2. Get married (a robust effect, but perhaps not causal).
3. Avoid negative events and negative emotion (only a moderate effect).
4. Acquire a rich social network (a robust effect, but perhaps not causal).
5. Get religion (a moderate effect).
Dr. Carr lists nine major components of happiness, and perhaps it is not coincidental that relationships are placed first. He then complements this top priority with five actions: mate with someone similar, with someone with whom you can communicate kindly and clearly (emphasis mine), and forgive their faults; maintain contact with your extended family; maintain a few close friendships; co-operate with acquaintances; engage in religious or spiritual practices.