We think boatloads of money, huge creepy houses and devouring buckets of ice cream will make us happy. Sometimes it does, often it doesn’t. But what if there’s a static metric for happiness? A way to ensure that we enjoy the lives we live. To understand this let’s take a look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

They’re categorized into basic, psychological and self-fulfilment needs. Their priorities decrease as you go up the triangle. Though this triangle varies according to circumstances it acts as a good reference point.

Number 1…

1. Money

Before you start ranting that money doesn’t buy happiness let me ask you a question. When was the last time you were happy without a single penny? Maybe when your kid was born? or Maybe during your last birthday party when you were so drunk that wore your underwear above your head, confusing your sofa for a ship assuming that you were Captain Jack Swallows? Let me tell you something, without money you cannot pay your hospital bills or have a house to party. This might seem obvious and stupid but bare with me for a second.

Though I acknowledge that money doesn’t buy you happiness it buys you FREEDOM. It’s this freedom that helps you to be happy and money helps you achieve that. Consider the following graph,Threshold levels were made up for better understanding.

You can notice that happiness subsides after certain levels

There’s a certain threshold up-to which money makes you happy. I call this the essential threshold. Food, shelter, clothes come under this category. Failing to reach this threshold paves way for uneasiness to creep in. Why? You cannot think of going surfing or playing video games if you don’t know how to put food on the table.

Next comes the comfort threshold. This is where all your other essentials come in – Internet, Television, Basic furniture. Next in line is the luxury threshold. Fancy cars, foldable phones and Expensive watches that display the same time as your 14-year-old wall clock come in here. Any spending beyond this is a hit to your happiness levels. The curve flattens and eventually reduces.

This is because the freedom gained due to transition from (0 – essential threshold) > (essential – comfort threshold) > so on… This can also put in the following form.

Money spent ( beyond the luxury threshold)= 1/ Freedom

It’s this comfort – luxury threshold transition that we work most of our lives for without realizing that it’s less valuable than previous ones.

Takeaway: Never over or underestimate the importance of money.

2. Sleep

With hustle culture giants wearing sleepless nights as a badge of honour, sleep is one of the most compromised factors of our lives. Though sleep helps you rejuvenate your body, makes you more active and boosts your immunity we often trade it for stupid cat videos on youtube. Jeff Bezos regrets his mistake of overlooking sleep in his early business days and says

Seven hours of sleep and I start to degade. Six is suboptimal. Five is a big problem. Four means I’m a zombie

Jeff Bezos

Greg Mckeown in his book essentialism considers sleeping one of his most important assets. Take me for instance, the lack of sleep in my sophomore days made me depressed, more angry and ignorant towards the people around me. I was walking stick of dynamite.

Source

Sleep well. It’s something that we all love to do. But there isn’t any fixed solution though. Some people need 6 and others 9. So it’s better to experiment what works for you. Waking up and sleeping at the same time every day would be a great idea.

Takeaway: Don’t turn into a zombie.

3. Healthy habits

Just like money, habits help you gain freedom, more than what you think. There are two things that everybody should take care of.

Work-life balance

This isn’t the typical work-life balance. If you take a bird’s eye view of people around you they could be classified into four categories.

  1. Kids (<15) (They’re too cute to be criticized so we’ll leave them out of the picture)
  2. Young adults (15-20)
  3. Adults (21 – 60)
  4. Seniors (>60)

Loaded with responsibilities and finances adults succumb to stress. And for the Seniors lie on the opposite end of the spectrum. As far as I’ve witnessed most people are whiling away their lives to breathe their last. Now let’s look at the Brain’s see-saw.

High stress levels in adults
Brain’s see-saw for Adults
High Stress levels in seniors
Brain’s see-saw for Seniors

In both these cases, there’s a lack of balance. While one group is loaded with stress other one is filled with dopamine. And both of them turn to typical passive sources of entertainment for recreation. No, it’s not essential to bench 300 pounds or become an entrepreneur. Just do something that gives work to your brains. It could be anything singing, journaling your thoughts every day, playing with your grandkids or even gaming. (Games are less passive than TV) What do you think is cooler than an 80-year-old kicking 20-year-old players on Fortnite?

It’s never too late to begin. Start doing things for the mere joy of doing it. Be it a hobby or mundane work. Don’t let your brains rust away.

Exercising and a healthy diet

There’s a famous quote – Healthy body gives rise to a healthy mind. Without being healthy your basic foundation of happiness tends to fall apart (with time) forcing you to move down to take care of inhibiting any higher levels of human experience. You cannot travel all over the world with poor health for so-long. Start taking care of it.

If you keep eating pizzas and fries you’re more likely to be lethargic and lazy. Try switching to a healthy diet just for 24 hours, you’ll be amazed by how happy you’re.

Takeaway: Keep your brain and body healthy by engaging in activities that bring you joy.

(Bonus) Internet:

Come on! I bet that if Maslow had known about the Internet it would be the only thing that filled the triangle. It would probably look like this,

Maslow’s model if the internet existed in his time

To avoid accidental deaths due to exhausted internet packs we should stop taking it for granted.

Takeaway: Don’t share your wifi password.

4. Intimate relationships

The next in line is psychological needs. Intimate relationships solve this. Why? Humans are social creatures and validation is one of the basic human needs. Way back in our forager years when someone calls you, you respond immediately. Anything other than that means you’re out of the group which leads to lesser chances of survival. The urge to check a new text originates from this. And humans love to feel valued.

Good friends are invaluable sources of intimate relationships

I believe that due to this lack of love/ sense of value and an abusive childhood gives birth to psychopaths. They turn to other malicious acts for validation. One doesn’t become a serial killer as he’s enjoying a party. These poor kids didn’t enjoy the love of their parents/ caretakers as we did.

Validation plays a very important role in the happiness of an individual and it can mostly be obtained through intimate relationships. Think of life with all the money and luxury you want in life but nobody to share it with. That’s lonely and depressing.

Takeaway: I needn’t say this, anyways never stop caring people who love you for who you’re.

5. Passion

This is getting old. I have been writing about passion in most of my articles, yet its importance cannot be stated enough. With lower needs like validation, food and shelter satisfied it paves way for higher ones. And most don’t have a passion for something because work and passive entertainment consumes their life. Don’t be that guy. Let me ask you something,

If you’re guaranteed to have a sexy body in exchange for 3 hours of work out what would you do? Obviously, you would take the chance. Now add in this will you continue to work out after that 3 hours?

Most won’t. Though you could experience higher levels of happiness you stop at lower levels (money and passive entertainment). Moreover, it keeps your brain healthy just as a workout does to your body. There’s nothing wrong about people without passion it’s just that they could experience more joy if they had one.

Takeaway: Try different things. Something will eventually stick with you. Or it may be something you’ve done your entire life but not been aware of. Look inside you. What do you do the most in the 16-hours of awake time you’ve.

What now?

Let me make this clear, happiness is not a goal. You can never chase happiness. But all the above-mentioned stuff gives happiness as a by-product. The more you try to be happy by trying to build intimate relationships the lonelier you become. When you stop giving a shit about happiness and start doing things wholly enjoying them that’s when happiness comes wagging its tail.


Footnotes

  1. Threshold levels were made up for better understanding.

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