Happiness is often defined as “psychological health”. Sometimes we use the term well-being, or life satisfaction, but no matter how we define it, we always give a great deal of weight to our subjective perception of happiness (i.e. if you feel you are happy, then you probably are).
But what is the science behind happiness, and why are some people happy even in the worst of circumstances, while others find something to complain about even in the best of circumstances?
Researchers have long debated the nature vs nurture influences on happiness. The question of how much our genes determine our tendency to be happy will probably never be resolved, nor will the question of how much our surrounding environment plays a part. The important thing to remember, however, is that, no matter how powerful the heritability factor—which is beyond our control– there are things we can control to to stack the cards in our favor.
One way to do this is to become RICH. But I’m not talking about needing a millionaire’s portfolio.
When I was a graduate student, one of the most fascinating lectures I attended was given by Dr. Thomas Kehle of the University of Connecticut. His theory was that happy individuals shared four common characteristics that could be boiled down to the acronym R.I.C.H. . These characteristics are not totally exclusive from one another. To the contrary, they are interrelated; and if you work on improving any one of these characteristics, the other three will also improve!
The R.I.C.H. Model of Happiness
R = Resources; Having the right resources will give you a sense of freedom to do the things you need to do in daily life. Resources might include the allocation of time and money to maintaining friendships, establishing competence, and nurturing your physical health.
I= Intimacy. Friendship is specifically emphasized in this category, but intimacy may also include a romantic relationship, or even the kind of close bond that exists between you and your pet.
C=Competence. We all need develop and use our abilities—whatever they are—to achieve an adequate amount of resources, intimacy and physical health
H-Health. We have a greater chance of remaining healthy when we are aware of what to do to take care of our body and mind, and following through with those behaviors, which will help us feel independent, enjoy intimacy, and feel competent.
Remember, if you pick just one of these to start working on, you will improve the other three by default. So why wait?
Improving your resources might involve establishing a budget and paying off debt; or it might include keeping a time planner to organize your time to make more room for friends.
If you are lonely, you may be able to increase your intimacy factor by joining groups that are aligned with your interests; going to lecture discussion gathering, participating in a book club, or adopting a pet.
If you feel you are not living up to your full competence and abilities, perhaps taking an adult education class to improve on your skills or interests may get you to the next level.
Finally as my grandmother—and probably yours too– used to say,“Without your health you have nothing”. Don’t put off those regular medical checkups. Refine your diet to cut the junk foods, fast foods, and sugary foods that lead to disease. Make sure you get at least 30 minutes of physical activity into each day. Your mind will make up a million excuses not to walk, dance, do that exercise video, or march in place during TV commercials. OVERRIDE that negative talk and get healthy.
Please “like” and share this article (citing with original source) with anyone who could use a happiness template.
Let’s start a conversation! How do YOU work on your resources, intimacy, health and personal competence?
Kehle, Thomas J., & Bray, Melissa A. (2004). Rich Theory: The promotion of happiness. Psychology in the Schools vol. 41(1) 2004 pp43-49.
©Raeleen Mautner, LLC