The Keys to Happiness: Part 6 – How Your Environment Shapes Your Happiness

The world around you, the circumstances of your life, make up the second of your WE PROMISE elemental needs: Environment.

Your Environment, of all your WE PROMISE needs, is one of the hardest ones to change.

Why? Because to make changes you must be in control but what can you actually control of your outer world?

What Can You Control?

You cannot, and should not try to, control other people.

You cannot control the weather (but you can move).

You cannot completely assure your safety (but you can protect yourself).

And, when it comes to controlling your society, government, and other large institutions, at best you can only apply pressure in the direction you want things to go. Even the President of the United States has limited powers to effect true change.

You cannot control all these things but you can control yourself.

Being in control of yourself gives you the power to fulfill many of your needs.

Control What You Can, Accept What You Can’t

You cannot control everything but you can control some things about your life. The trick is in knowing the difference.

I find the whole sentiment well expressed by the Serenity Prayer. Useful regardless of your religious beliefs:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. – Reinhold Niebuhr

Let’s talk about your Environment needs that are within your power to change…

Some Assumptions About Your Environment

Certainly there are millions, even billions, of people who live lives where the mere act of survival takes priority. I make the assumption that you are not one of them because, if you were, you would rather eat than surf the internet.

For those of us living in free societies with location mobility and broad opportunities, we have unprecedented control over our Environment needs. It is those needs I’ll be covering in this article.

Without further ado, here are your Environment Happiness Essentials…

Freedom

Most of us would say that freedom is a prerequisite to happiness but how much freedom is required?

Like all your Happiness Essentials, there is no simple black and white answer to this question. Freedom comes in shades of gray and your Freedom needs fall somewhere along the spectrum.

Externally, your freedom is controlled to a great degree by the society you live in. Highly developed nations offer the maximum freedom for their citizens but there are always necessary restrictions.

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. – Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

And few would argue against the ethical idea that your freedom stops where your actions interfere with another’s rights.

Even beyond the necessary ethical and external restrictions on freedom, is there such a thing as too much freedom?

I think the answer is yes.

Like all your Happiness Essentials, finding a moderated balance, in line with the person you are, is the goal.

If you maximize freedom you give up other things. Freedom means no obligations. No commitments to people you love, to work, to lenders, even to yourself.

Where does this sort of freedom lead you? I had the opportunity to see it firsthand a couple years ago.

Traveling in Thailand, I met a man who proclaimed he was living a completely free life. Free of material goods (beyond a minimum of clothing), free of a job (certainly true), free of commitments (he wouldn’t obligate himself to meet me the next day). He explained his path, and his goal.

He proclaimed his skill (and obvious pride) at reaching the “seventh level” (apparently an adept level of practice in this twisted form of Buddhism he followed).

He proclaimed his utter happiness.

And he lied.

The anguish was written so clearly on his face that it was impossible to miss as he sipped on another cold beer to drown his sorrows.

Here was a man who mistook freedom for happiness. He had taken a large detour from the middle path.

Finding freedom means releasing your unwanted obligations, unfulfilling relationships, and moving into alignment with your needs.

Safety

Do you feel safe? If not, then what are you going to do about it?

Certainly some people have irrational fears that hinder their safety but for the rest of us, much of our safety is within our control.

Don’t like the neighborhood? Move.

Look, it’s just like in the scary movie Poltergeist. When the house says “GET OUT!“, it’s time to pack your stuff and go.

Look for a better place to live. Take a room in a house or a smaller apartment if you have to but get your safety needs fulfilled.

Then again, maybe you want a little less Safety, a little well-planned risk to spike your adrenaline? Go for it but realize that what you are doing is not actually related to your Safety needs but is actually part of your Pleasure WE PROMISE Element. Safety is the steady Environment you live day to day within.

Someplace that Feels Like Home

Even nomadic humans are not truly wandering. We’ve evolved to have a relatively fixed home base and it feels good to have someplace to put your belongings.

Home might be as simple as a backpack or as complex as a cozy “nest” to take refuge in.

Naturally, how much you feel this need of place is going to vary from person to person, and even within the course of your life.

Find the right balance, choose a place that helps you fulfill your other Happiness Essentials, and make that home base.

Climate

You can’t change the weather, but you can choose where you want to live. Climate should be one piece of that decision.

Before you rush off to your ideal climate, keep in mind that us humans thrive on variety. If every day is the same, we become accustomed to the way it is and we become bored with it.

Consider your needs, who lives there, what kind of culture the place has, and whether or not your other Happiness Essentials can be fulfilled over Climate but do consider Climate.

Beauty

When I speak of Beauty, I’m not so much talking about beautiful people, and I’m most certainly not talking about how beautiful you are (and I’m sure you are). I’m talking about Beauty in your Environment.

Do you fill your world with Beauty? Does art and artifact fill your home? Do you enjoy walks in nature regularly? Most importantly, are you having your Beauty needs fulfilled?

While the experiencing of Beauty technically falls within the Pleasure WE PROMISE Element, your ability to surround yourself with Beauty, or the opportunities for experiencing it, is an Environment factor and what we are talking about here. It is also a clear example of how your Happiness Essentials, while conveniently categorized into the nine WE PROMISE categories, are overlapping and interacting to form the whole you.

Why do we even need Beauty? Science is not sure but one theory, which I tend towards favoring, is based on our evolutionary needs. You can read an in-depth article on the subject here: Aesthetics and Evolutionary Psychology – Denis Dutton.

Next time…

In the next article we get to have some fun.

Really.

It’s all about Pleasure and you’ll discover why happiness isn’t just a sunny day at the beach.

Wishing you perfect happiness,
Kenneth Benjamin and the Happiness International team

 

P.S. Isn’t it about time you signed up for our Happiness Planner where you will learn about your priorities in all 58 of your Happiness Essentials. It only takes about 30 minutes to complete. Click here to learn more about the Happiness Planner.