The unselfish truth: Why you should make your own happiness a priority

Happiness matters – for our careers, our health, our relationships – and it's something to be practiced daily

The unselfish truth: Why you should make your own happiness a priority

This article was produced in partnership with UKG.

The world, especially now, is not always a happy place. Along with recent global concerns such as the COVID-19 pandemic and invasion of Ukraine, there is the usual myriad of struggles challenging people on a day-to-day basis.

But happiness matters, not just on a personal level, but in its connection to better mental and physical health, along with career success, improved relationships, enhanced creativity and longevity.

Canadian researcher and happiness doctor Dr. Gillian Mandich is often asked, “What is happiness?”

While it may sound simple, 100 people could give 100 different definitions, she says.

“Happiness is sometimes hard to encapsulate into words because it’s something that is felt.”

But one common definition taken from happiness and psychology researcher Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky states happiness is “the experience of joy, contentment, and positive well-being combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful and worthwhile,” says Dr. Mandich.

In UKG’s guide, The Truth About Happiness, she discusses why happiness is essential, debunks the myth about attaining happiness, and provides five scientifically proven practices to make people happier each day.

Learning about happiness

One of the first steps in figuring out how to live a happy life is learning what happiness is because people aren’t taught how to be happy, says Dr. Mandich.

“In school… we learned math, and we learned science, but nobody taught us how to be happy. And then we had advertising, marketing, media, TV, movies, and social media creating the story about happiness, which is found like ‘When I have… When I have X amount of money or ‘When I have this car or get this job or get married or get divorced…’”

But research has shown that happiness is not a destination; it’s a practice.

“Step number one in terms of how to live a happy life is recognizing that we don’t find happiness one day — it’s something that we have to work at every single day,” she says, just like people who work out regularly or eat a healthy diet.

“There are things that we can do throughout the day to increase our happiness and makes happiness available to us now, not that’s contingent on something in the future.”

For example, instead of focusing only on major events in our lives, such as birthdays or graduations, it’s also about focusing on the small stuff.

“What we know from research is that a happy life is the sum of small joys throughout the day,” she says.

“Whether it’s taking my dog for a walk or spending time in the morning with our kids or putting on music and having a dance party, really focusing on creating the small bursts of joy throughout the day is a key piece in terms of ‘How do we cultivate a truly happy life?’”

The selflessness of happiness

With the pandemic, people have moved beyond the usual “Hi, how are you?” to truly living and breathing mental health with family, friends, and colleagues.

And while people might think that focusing on their own happiness is selfish, research has shown that focusing on our happiness is one of the most selfless things they can do, she says.

“When we put ourselves in a positive frame of mind, we’re better for other people; we can’t pour from an empty cup; we can’t give what we don’t have. So sometimes, it’s about reframing happiness and seeing it as something that we’re doing for ourselves, and then for others as a by-product.”

To learn how to practice simple happiness habits backed by science, download a free copy of UKG’s new guide, The Truth About Happiness, by Dr. Gillian Mandich.

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