As human beings, our ultimate goal should be to maximize our happiness and live in harmony with each other and our environment.
Recent studies have shown that the qualities that increase lasting happiness in humans are:
- Living in a supportive group of friends and family (having a tribe).
- Having enough material wealth so food and shelter are not a daily struggle (a middle-class income).
- Having health and education.
- Working in “Flow” – getting lost in doing what you love while adding value to society.
- Having a good work/life balance, short commutes, adequate leisure time, and low stress.
- Traveling and having new experiences in new cultures.
- Being respected by peers.
- Helping people in need in the community, and in humanity as a whole.
- Getting sun, fresh air, and regular exercise. Laughing.
- Being grounded in spirituality, culture, or religion of some kinds.
- Getting mental stimulation, meditation, and quality sleep.
- Being grateful and savoring the moments of life.
- Getting married, mating and having a child.
- Eating good quality natural foods – including grass-fed proteins, seafood and organic fruits and vegetables.
This all makes sense given our biological evolution. Now, contrast that with modern society and what it incentivizes us to do:
- Chasing elusive material wealth, while never being satisfied with how much we have.
- Putting an emphasis on status, symbol, competition and power.
- Spending most of our energy commuting to and working for large institutions, working long hours indoors.
- Struggling to get adequate education, shelter, free time and health care due to high costs.
- Going through a mediocre educational system in order to fit the mold, instead of thinking critically and creatively.
- Spending our mental energy stressing because of financial responsibilities, and lacking quality sleep.
- Buying products and services that we think will make us happy, but only satisfy us temporarily.
- Being bombarded by negative corporate news, mindless infotainment, and violent media.
- Living in relative isolation even in dense cities, distant from family and friends, lacking community and support.
- Moving from partner to partner without commitment, and delaying creating a family.
- Seeking refuge in alcohol, drugs, and media to escape reality.
- Losing spiritual connections and forgetting to “slow down” to appreciate life and have gratitude.
- Taking an unfair amount of resources from others, which creating war and poverty through institutionalized greed.
- Polluting our environment, and living in traffic jammed cities.
- Having health problems due lack of physical exercise and a diet full of processed foods.
- It’s easy to see that we need to change our path if we expect to really call ourselves a “happy” civilized society.
Industrial and technological progress in the last century has lifted many out of poverty and brought a new standard of living to the world. However, this “progress” is responsible for creating many new environmental, social, and mental problems for our species. Before time runs out and millions more join the race towards unhappiness, we must re-imagine society and work towards a more sustainable trajectory for human beings.