Love Brings Happiness Essay
What does it mean to love someone? Some people describe love as a feeling, which is part of the reason it gets mixed up with happiness. But love is a lot more than a feeling, and it does not immediately equate to happiness. By reviewing what love has meant to people throughout history and across cultures, researchers offer a definition of love containing four key components:
1. The beloved. To love someone, there must be someone to love.
2. The feelings that accompany love. These can be sexy feelings—or not.
3. The thoughts that accompany love. You think about the beloved.
Being with them, how they are, and so on.
4. The actions or relations one has with the beloved. Again, these
can be sexy actions—or not.
Although these components of love differ in how they are manifest across time and place, they have all have been present in some form when people describe love.
Now: will love make you happy? To have a beloved, as well as all the thoughts, feelings, and actions that come along with love? The evidence is pretty clear that although love can make you feel great, it also brings quite a bit of misery, too—and not just when you break up. Being in love is associated with emotions of joy and happiness, but it also associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety, too. Because happiness is not just about good feelings—it’s also about the absence of bad ones—the research is clear that love does not equal happiness.
Why might love bring on such a mix of positive and negative experiences? As with all things that affect how we feel, the answer lies in attention: love impacts our happiness depending upon how much attention we pay to it. Love is highly attention-seeking when there is a lot of uncertainty associated with it. Does she love me? Will he ask me to marry him? What if her friends don’t like me? The negative uncertainty that comes with love is a recipe for experiencing both positive and negative emotions as a result of loving someone.
Moreover, the longer you love someone, the worse you are at knowing what they do and do not like. When people judged an array of food dishes, movies, and kitchenette designs according to how much they thought their partners would like them, the longer they had been with their partner, the worse they were at predicting their preferences; and yet, the more certain they were that they were right. People assume that the person they love has the same preferences that they did when they first met but, in fact people’s preferences change. Love can make us confused about what our partners like.
Love can also make us more likely to break our promises to our beloved. Research shows that people who feel like they really love their partner are more likely to make promises to them, but that they aren’t more likely to actually keep these promises. People who have good self-regulation skills—the ability to monitor and control what they do—are most likely to actually keep their promises to you, not necessarily the people who love you the most. This is another reason we might experience negative as well as positive emotions as a result of love.
So although love can be great, it also brings with it a whole host of misery-making, problems, negative uncertainty, mismatched preferences, and broken promises. If you care about your happiness, you should be realistic about the fact that love won’t always make you happy. Happiness will, however, affect your success in love. Happier people are more likely to get married. And research shows that the bigger the happiness gap between spouses, the more likely it is that they will get divorced. This is most common when the woman is less happy than her husband. Rather than focusing on love as a route to happiness, perhaps it’s best to focus on being happy regardless of love, and then love and strong relationships will follow.
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We all know how great it feels to receive gifts. However, the joy of getting is short-lived. Our lives are richer when we share, and that great inner joy comes from helping others to better their lives. Truly giving from the heart fills your life with joy and nourishes your soul. Giving provides an intrinsic reward that’s far more valuable than the gift. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “To find yourself, lose yourself in the service of others.” Giving takes you out of yourself and allows you to expand beyond earthly limitations. True joy lies in the act of giving without an expectation of receiving something in return.
Academic research and thousands of years of human history confirm that achieving meaning, fulfillment, and happiness in life comes from making others happy, and not from being self-centred. Mother Teresa is a famous example. She found fulfillment in giving of herself to others. She helped change the expression on dying people’s faces from distress and fear to calmness and serenity. She made their undeniable pain a little easier to bear.
When people are asked why they give, the readiest answers include: God wants me to; I feel better about myself; others need, and I have; I want to share; it’s only right. The question I would ask is how did you feel? I imagine you felt very pleased with yourself and happy inside. It has been my experience that when you’re focused on giving to others you’re less likely to become consumed by your own concerns and challenges. Giving provides an opportunity to look beyond our own world and see the bigger picture. A great perspective can be achieved by stepping out of our own world and venturing into the world of other people. Your worries and challenges may not seem as significant when compared to other people’s situations.
The act of giving kindles self-esteem and brings happiness. Scientists have discovered that happiness is related to how much gratitude you show. After several years of soul searching, I discovered that my unhappiness was due to my want for things to fill the void of loneliness. My search for inner happiness led me towards gratitude. During this process of self-realization, I also discovered “The Purpose of Living.” Yes, I believe that giving thanks makes you happier. But don’t take my word for it—try it out for yourself.
The power of giving
Giving is one of the best investments you can make towards achieving genuine happiness. True giving comes from the heart, with no expectation of reciprocation. You’ll find that the more you give, the more you’ll receive. The power of giving is manifested in the kindness and generosity that you bestow on someone else. When you give to another unselfishly, the vibrational energy emitting from your subconscious is at its strongest. The power of giving, according to neuroscience, is that it feels good. A Chinese proverb says: “If you always give, you will always have.” A famous American author and management expert, Ken Blanchard, declared “The more I give away, the more comes back.”
If you find yourself feeling unhappy, try making someone else happy and see what happens. If you’re feeling empty and unfulfilled, try doing some meaningful and worthwhile work and see how you feel. The catch is that you must do this work with passion and enthusiasm.
There are many organizations, institutions and people who are engaged in exemplary works of giving. Narayanan Krishnan is a management graduate from Madurai, India who gave up his career as chef with a five-star hotel when he saw a man so hungry that he was feeding on his own excreta. From there on Krishnan started his noble initiative to feed thousands of destitute and homeless people in his state—free of cost. Another example of giving is Sanjit “Bunker” Roy, founder of the Barefoot College. Since graduating from college in 1965, Mr. Roy has committed his life to serve the poor and to help rural communities become self-sufficient. The Barefoot College education program encourages learning-by-doing, such as training grandmothers from Africa and the Himalayan region to be solar engineers so they could bring electricity to their remote villages.
It’s the joy and love that we extend to others that brings true happiness or union with God. When we give, we reap the joy of seeing a bright smile, laughter, tears of joy and gratitude for life. We know that if people give just a little more—of their time, skills, knowledge, wisdom, compassion, wealth and love—the world would be a more peaceful and healthier place.
The rewards of giving are priceless. If you want to have happiness, you need to give happiness. If you want love, you need to give love. It is only in giving that you receive. No matter what your circumstances in life, you have the ability to give. I encourage you to look for opportunities where you can give and help others. The gift of joy will come to you when you give of yourself to others. That’s what life is all about. Let’s practice and commit our lives to giving joy. Try it! It works!
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