Many men and women equate happiness with finding a partner. Everyone not already in a romantic relationship is “looking.” Having a partner is seen as the path to happiness and the guarantee of not being alone and miserable.
Does a partner actually fill our lives with happiness, or is that mostly based on unrealistic hopes?
Research at the Michigan State University, which was published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, studied 7,000 people to determine how happy they were. These people ranged from very young to old and were a mixture of married, single, and previously married. The study found that the happiness level of singles and those in a relationship didn’t differ all that much. Those that were together through marriage for a lifetime were only slightly happier than singles and those that had a number of romantic relationships.
The results of the study made clear that having a partner was not the holy grail to happiness.
Happiness – a sense of contentment with life – has more to do with our overall choices, not just our romantic relationship. Couples in a long-term marriage can end up unhappy and angry, while singles with a variety of interests and a positive sense of self were likely to be happy and contented.
If you aren’t bringing happiness into your own life, your marital status becomes irrelevant.
What Brings About Genuine Happiness?
There is no one simple answer to that question. Your overall happiness and contentment depend on your mindset, your thoughts, and your actions. Your peer group may also affect your level of happiness. For example, if having a certain type of car is given value among your peers, having such a car can add to your sense of happiness.
Certain things in your life are more geared to filling you with happiness than others. A positive mindset, a feeling of empathy, compassion, and generosity are happiness triggers. Another sure path to happiness is valuing something besides yourself. Setting aside one’s ego and becoming connected to something greater than oneself – perhaps through charity or volunteer work – is a known path to happiness, regardless of your marital state. Taking this a step further, the happier and more contented your mindset, the more likely you are to enjoy greater health. A study concluded that “ … increasing the psychological well-being even of generally healthy adults can have benefits to their physical health.” That includes all aspects of healthy living, such as exercising, eating well, and being grateful for what we have.
The connection between mind and body is strong.
Conventional wisdom states that if we have a good job and are in a marriage, happiness naturally follows. New research has found considerable evidence to contradict that. For example, the above study at Michigan State University clearly shows a different picture. The fact is, happiness involves a broader spectrum than just relationships. One can be forever unhappy while married. On the other hand, one can enjoy a fulfilling life while single. If a single person is unhappy, getting married will not change that. It would take a change of mindset.
Happiness and How You Feel About Yourself
Happiness may not depend on external forces (such as relationships with others), but it is very much dependent on our relationship with ourselves. Interestingly, the better we feel about ourselves, the more we are likely to attract people who second that feeling and who boost our happiness. On the flip side, if we feel badly about ourselves, we are almost guaranteed to attract those who make us feel even worse.
There is no feeling like having a partner who loves us and makes us feel great about ourselves. It’s magic. However, we cannot depend on our partner to make us happy. The contentment has to come from within. A loving partner merely provides us the wonderful opportunity to share that contentment.
Does Being Single Help You Grow?
Being in a relationship may keep us from being lonely (although that isn’t always the case). Being single, on the other hand, allows us to explore the world without interference. We can travel as we wish, take up any hobby, go back to school, or do any number of things. It can be easier grow as a person when we are single, without the limitations provided by a relationship.
While a partner can certainly support our dreams and ambitions, as singles we can grow without the approval of someone else.
A loving partner can heighten our experiences and satisfaction with life. However, if we depend on someone else to make us feel happy, that happiness will likely be short-lived. No relationship can provide us with happiness if we can’t provide it for ourselves first. Happiness is something to be shared, not given or taken.
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