My four pillars of happiness: energy, fun, peace of mind, and love.

Because I’m the kind of person who likes to divide everything into categories, and enjoys trying to distill every idea into its essence, I’ve been trying to think of how to characterize the elements of a happy life.

I have my earthshaking happiness formula, of course: To be happy, we must think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.

Then I asked myself, “What are the elements necessary for a happy life?”

Approaching the question in this way, I came up with a different kind of answer.

At least in my current thinking, my four pillars of happiness are: energy, fun, peace of mind, and love.

I’m still tinkering. For example, at first I had “a clean conscience” instead of “peace of mind,” but I realized that you could have a clean conscience without peace of mind, and I think you do need peace of mind. Not necessarily a peaceful life – some people thrive on bustle and even chaos – but peace of mind.

I debated about whether to include “energy” and “fun.” Probably you could be happy with “love” and “peace of mind.”

But if you have love, peace of mind, AND energy AND fun – wow, then that really sounds like a joyful kind of happiness.

Research backs me up on energy and fun.

One study measured students for four extraverted characteristics—talkativeness, assertiveness, adventurousness and energy level—and found that while all extraverted characteristics were related to happiness, energy level was most strongly related.

Also, when you have energy, it’s much easier to do all the things that will make you happier. It’s easier to exercise, it’s easier to hold your temper, it’s easier to go out of your way to help someone else.

Fun sounds a bit frivolous, but research shows that regularly having fun is a key factor in having a happy life. People who have fun are twenty times more likely to be happy. And again, when you have some fun in your life, it creates a cushion that makes it easier to handle the difficult parts of life. It can be a refuge, a distraction, a refreshment.

Peace of mind and love – of course, you must have peace of mind and love in order to be happy.

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • http://www.reddeerblog.com eduardo

    you got me thinking, and that puts a strain on my brain (not good for a Friday)
    I’ve tried to tackle this from a different angle. I’ve tried to develop a ‘HIERARCHY OF HAPPINESS’ see it here…
    http://www.reddeerblog.com/2007/04/hierarchy-of-happiness
    now I have to go think about your writings…thanks anyway…
    Eduardo
    Truthteller site
    http://www.reddeerblog.com

  • http://www.gretchenrubin.com Gretchen Rubin

    Fascinating! I toyed with the idea of doing my own version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, too. It’s harder than it looks to figure out how you think these factors stack up. Thanks for sending me the link.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/mpianalto/ Matthew Pianalto

    “Fun” seems like the thing that doesn’t belong. (To use Seasame-speak.) The other three appeal more explicitly to internal dispositions. Engagement? When we’re really having fun (whether working or goofing) it would seem to be because we’re engaged (and you can get meaning, purpose, connection to others & the world, out of this). Maybe engagement takes care of energy and fun???

  • judy gunning

    Please elaborate, Gretchen! Energy decreases with age so must our ‘happiness’? What is ‘fun’? I had ‘fun’ watching a great movie;’Kinky Boots’. Is that what you mean? Peace of mind – like no regrets for things said or unsaid, roads taken or denied? Again, the longer you live, the more likely you are to repent past mistakes. Love? If we all had this one, but we don’t, would we crave the others? Judy

  • http://www.gretchenrubin.com Gretchen Rubin

    Ah, great questions. Energy — at every stage, we should take steps to stay as energetic as we can. Everything is easier if you have energy. Sleep, exercise, healthful diet, fun, give energy.
    What is fun? Fun is different for everyone — but if you look forward to doing something, and enjoy it while it’s happening, that’s fun.
    Peace of mind — yes, as few regrets as possible; as little pricking from your conscience as possible; knowledge that you’ve done the right things; and if you need it (some people don’t), quiet and order in your environment.
    Is LOVE enough to have a happy life? I thought a lot about this. Certainly love goes a long way. But I do think I can imagine a life with love, but without much happiness.
    Very interesting, needs more thought…
    Studies show that older people are often happier than younger people, so the fact of lessened energy and some regretted actions seems to be outweighed by other factors.

  • Chronic, B

    I think you can be happy without peace of mind. You can have conflicts with people or constantly perceiving the fore coming of conflict and still be happy. I think it depends entirely on the person and that no generic formula can represent a person accurately 100 percent. A NASCAR driver constantly risking his or her life, racing at high speeds just for the “rush” associated with it. Risking his/her life doesn’t exactly fit the definition of “peace of mind.” A consciencness of complete self fuliment or just simply doing what makes you happy seems to be a more precise pillar.