Happiness and health go hand-in-hand. So saith the research.

Yet as a new study reminds, the pursuit of happiness can actually make us unhappy. Through a set of four experiments on time and happiness, Canadian researchers found that

the harder we try to make ourselves happy, the more we feel like we don’t have enough time at our disposal to achieve that. And the more we feel that time is scarce, the more unhappy we actually become.

But like time, happiness, too, is fleeting, and it often depends on external events. True to the word’s historical roots, notes Australian psychiatrist Sidney Bloch, it is often associated with chance.

Happiness, derived from the Norse word hap, means luck or chance; the phrase happy-go-lucky illustrates the association. Many Indo-European languages similarly conflate the feeling of happiness and luck. Glück in German, for instance, can be translated as either happiness or chance, while eftihia, the Greek word for happiness, is derived from ef, meaning good, and tixi, luck or chance.

Happiness is not to be confused with contentment, a word which

is derived from the Latin contentus and usually translated as satisfied. No multiple meanings here to confuse us. In my view, feeling content refers to a deep-seated, abiding acceptance of one’s self and one’s worth together with a sense of self-fulfilment, meaning and purpose.

And, most critically, these assets are valued and nurtured whatever the circumstances, or even especially when they are distressing or depressing.

This may be a more worthwhile pursuit; likewise, a sense of meaning or purpose in one’s life. In fact, some research suggests that the latter may even be more beneficial to health than mere “happiness.”

Supporting both of these is the concept of emotional health. Yet while most of us grow up learning how to tend to our physical well-being, relatively few of us are taught how to practice “emotional hygiene.” This, suggests psychologist Dr. Guy Winch, is to our detriment.

But as we do learn how to tend to our emotional health, we become more resilient, all ways around. Check it out:


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