Questioning Social Narratives: How Breaking Free From Expectations Can Lead To Increased Satisfaction And Well-Being
If you want to be truly happy, then it’s time to start skipping societal expectations and listening to your intuition instead.
Many people find themselves in positions of success and still feel profoundly unhappy, because they haven’t taken the time to think critically about their life decisions and whether or not they are truly fulfilling them.
Natures Nutrition’s book, “Happy Ever After,” encourages readers to break away from societal expectations on how we ought to lead our lives — marriage, children, jobs — and instead trust their feelings and experiences as a means of finding happiness.
This book explains why being married doesn’t guarantee happiness, why having a CEO title isn’t necessarily more satisfying than that of a secretary’s job, and why our free will is limited by external factors.
Breaking away from societal norms could be key in the pursuit of true happiness.
Richness Isn’t The Key To Happiness; Aim For The ‘Just Enough’ Band And Avoid Comparisons
Research shows us that getting richer is not necessarily a way to be happy in life.
According to the American Time of Use Survey, happiness peaks among Americans earning between $50,000 and $75,000 – people earning more than this are no happier than those who earn less, and those earning under that amount can enjoy a level of happiness as well.
Furthermore, comparison seems to largely influence the relationship between wealth and one’s sense of satisfaction – we tend to measure ourselves against others at similar economic statuses.
Bob Frank’s 2007 study indicated that even when given the opportunity to live in a larger house than our peers, we tend to prefer living in a smaller house as long as it’s bigger than what everyone else has.
This suggests that striving for greater financial gains may not be the best way to achieve happiness after all.
The pursuit of wealth is widely accepted as integral to modern society, but the real key to happiness likely lies somewhere between being frugal and becoming rich – having enough money so you don’t explicitly feel deprived but also not having tons more than everyone else around you.
Knowing where this “just-enough” band lies will allow us all access to higher levels of contentment and wellbeing.
You Don’T Need To Rely On Success To Be Happy — Just Enough Is Best
The common perception is that success in life brings happiness, but this isn’t always the case.
Studies show us that those with more prestigious, successful roles often have lower levels of satisfaction with their jobs than those who make less money and are in lower positions.
For example, in 2012 a City and Guilds survey found that 87 percent of florists said they were happy at work but only 64 percent of lawyers said the same.
A Legatum Institute Study found that chief executives, despite having the highest salaries, weren’t any happier than their secretaries.
These studies suggest that reaching for maximum success isn’t always the best option if you want to lead a happy life.
It’s a better idea to take things slowly and not overextend yourself – too much hard work doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness either – according to the American Time Use Study, happiness peaks among those working 21-30 hours per week.
So while more money, status and respect might come as you progress up the career ladder, it may not result in increasing levels of personal happiness or satisfaction with life.
Stop Believing That Marriage Or Singledom Brings More Happiness – It’s Time To Start Thinking About Relationships Differently
We often regard marriage as a significant achievement in life.
It’s seen as being key to living a happy, successful and fulfilled life.
But, according to findings from the 2013 Stanford University study on relationships, there is little evidence to suggest that marriage will make you significantly happier than if you were single.
In addition, the data from the German Socioeconomic Panel – which has followed 7,000 Germans for over 20 years – suggests that although people initially report feeling more contented after getting married, it doesn’t always mean increased levels of satisfaction in the long run.
Results from the American Time of Use Study support this finding; married people reported no greater levels of happiness than those who are divorced when their partner wasn’t present during questioning.
These findings indicate that we should reconsider how we view marriage and long-term relationships.
The idea that singles are inherently unhappy should be abandoned, with laws like the UK’s Marriage Tax Allowance ending any customary discrimination they face while unmarried.
Ultimately, there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that marriage brings more happiness than singledom – so we shouldn’t be so prescriptive on how couples choose to live their lives.
It’S Time To Rethink The Social Norms Around Relationships And Family Planning
When it comes to infidelity, society has been rigidly opposed to it for centuries.
In the United Kingdom and the United States, the majority of people believe that cheating is morally wrong.
We accept this social narrative that any kind of unfaithfulness is always bad without questioning it deeply.
But when you look at the hard facts about infidelity, it is clear that it is actually a very normal part of life.
In nature, only one species – owl monkeys – practice sexual monogamy as its default setting in which mates couple annually when the female of the species is fertile.
Even humans are not immune from infidelity with UK surveys showing that one in three men and one in three women have cheated on their partner during marriage and a Bloomberg article stating 25 percent for men and 15 percent for women in the US have done so.
Rather than having a rigid opposition against infidelity, we should perhaps begin to accept that humans have an innate desire to unfortunately mate outside of their committed life-companion – something which might be difficult if we continue believing in the traditional narrative of monogamous relationships.
As a result, non-monogamous relationships could be an alternative where both partners agree to some degree of unfaithfulness while still remaining close and trusting such as according to research by University of Michigan scientists who found individuals this type of relationship were happy, trusting and satisfied compared to purely monogamous peers.
Overall then, we should try to reduce our judgemental views towards infidelity instead understanding why it may happen or possibly even consider consensual non-monogamous relationships as an option if done with care and trust from all parties involved – something which can ultimately help us lead happier lives.
It’S Okay To Reject The Narrative About Having Children: Why Being Child-Free Can Be Liberating
It’s no surprise that society places a great emphasis on the importance of having children.
Whether it’s through popular culture trends or religious practices, parents are often heralded and praised while those who choose to remain childfree by choice are seen as self-interested or outcasts.
Sadly, this trend is not always reflective of reality.
Having children is expensive, with an average cost of raising a child up to their twentieth birthday being close to £250,000 in the United Kingdom alone.
Additionally, parental responsibilities can have a large negative impact on the environment; studies have revealed that one fewer child could reduce carbon emissions by 9441 tons – 20 times more than six other environmental activities combined!
Parenting isn’t all rainbows and butterflies either: When participants of psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s 1,000 American women diary study ranked daily activities based on how enjoyable they were, taking care of children came in twelfth place – just above housework and below eating.
Mind states that out of 85,000 mothers studied in Norway, 20 percent experienced mental health problems following birth while the rest experienced a decrease in self-esteem for three years after their birth.
It’s clear that although having children generally comes with many rewards and financial planning opportunities, there will also inevitably be associated strain, anxiety and unhappiness – something that society often side-lines when endorsing parenthood instead of considering it carefully before making such life-changing decisions.
We Should Prioritize Happiness Over Health To Achieve True Contentment
We should all strive to lead a healthy life, however taking it too far can be a bad route to happiness.
This is especially true when it comes to judging people’s health choices.
Consider obesity – society often shames those of greater weight instead of accepting and understanding them.
In fact, studies have demonstrated that simply being overweight does not necessarily lower your happiness levels until you reach the level of morbid obesity (over 100 pounds above optimal weight).
Even then, their unhappiness usually stems from the judgement and pressure coming from the social norm, rather than their actual weight itself.
As if this weren’t enough evidence of how our prioritization of physical health neglects other aspects of wellbeing, consider how mental health treatment is often refused or put on the backburner in comparison to physical health.
People suffering from anorexia nervosa are sometimes denied treatment because they don’t meet certain indicators for it; even though their condition carries with it serious consequences.
We should rethink our definition of ‘health’ and recognize that some people find happiness in their less-than-healthy lifestyles.
The author remembers fondly partying hard despite knowing it was not particularly beneficial for his health; while someone who consumes pizza can gain pleasure that exceeds any potential detriment they receive from it.
In short, unhealthy choices do not necessarily always bring unhappiness; in some cases they are part of attaining joy and contentment in life.
It’S Clear That Free Will And Our Ability To Determine Our Own Lives Are Greatly Exaggerated
Our beliefs about free will are often misplaced, leading to distorted outlooks on our lives and the world.
We continue to believe that we can control every aspect of our lives, but in reality our upbringing, along with luck and context, have a major role in determining who we are and what we become.
By understanding these powerful influences that shape our lives, we can better appreciate the subtleties and external factors that play a part in decision making.
In particular, researchers have demonstrated how those from poorer backgrounds may be hampered by financial burdens when it comes to their ability to think clearly.
And something as seemingly small as differences in childbirth dates for school children can determine eventual outcomes of success or failure.
With this knowledge, it’s possible to reconsider the judgemental attitude many of us harbor for others, recognizing instead the complex journey each individual is on due to a combination of events beyond their control.
That doesn’t mean all hope should be lost however – knowing this enables us to create a fairer society where everyone has access to more opportunities regardless of circumstances.
The final summary of Happy Ever After is that we should reflect on what truly brings us joy and not get caught up in what society tells us we should do.
Society will often pressure us to strive for success, to get married and have kids, and to live a healthy life, but it’s important to step back and really think about what will make us happy.
In order to best navigate our decisions, Actionable Advice suggests we consider them as if they were those of our good friends.
Ask yourself – would you rather your best friend was married but frequently miserable? Or single but rarely miserable? Thinking in this way can help provide clarity into the decisions that will bring the most happiness for you in the long run.