6 Spheres of Happiness
We all desire happiness but just what does that mean and how do we get there? Some psychologists break down the elements for happiness into six basic “spheres.” These Spheres of Happiness are: Work and Career, Interpersonal Life, Physical and Mental Health, Financial Health, Interests and Pastimes, and Spirituality. Ultimately, to be happy, we need to find a balance that encompasses all spheres. For the next six months I will be focusing on one sphere and will write a post relating to that sphere once a week. For now, here is an introduction to all six.
Work and Career
“What do you do?” Its one of the first questions people ask, usually right after finding out your name. For some of you this may be easy. You might work the regular 9-5, be a student, a business owner, or have any other manner of gainful employment. Even if you don’t like what you do you still have a ready answer. If you are like me, you dread this question. You know when its coming and start scrambling for answers. “Well, I cook and have a mini farm and sometimes I make soap and at the moment I’m studying historical building design and I recently took up aerial dance and….I like tv?….” pretty soon you are just rambling.
Whether you love your job, hate it, or really don’t have any answer for this question, Work and Career are one of the Six Spheres of Happiness. And rightly so. Work constitutes a large chunk of time — almost a quarter of time each week — for most people. If you are dissatisfied at work it will leach over into other parts of your life. That is why it is so important to take steps to make your work meaningful to you. Whether you are a stay at home mom or a high powered executive, the “what do you do?” is a contributing factor to happiness.
Said the great Mahatma Gandhi, “Where there is love there is life.” We are all in different stages of our lives. Some single and searching, some single and not interested. Some with budding romances and some with a relationship dying a painful death. Some married, some unable to be married, some happy not to be married, and some whose marriages have ended.
Some who have watched three generations of family grow up and some who are just starting their own family. Some who just can’t seem to get along with family members, some who haven’t seen family in years. Some who live right next to mom and dad, some who still live at home and are dying to move out, and some who live across the world from family. Some who wish they were born into a different family and some who don’t have any family at all. And lots who love their family, warts and hard times and all.
And friends, what about friends? Some with 500 Facebook friends and some who don’t even know what Facebook is. Some who party every night of the week and some who are homebodies. Some with lots of people who know your name but with no one who knows what’s really going on inside. Some with one bestie who is all the friend you need. Some who have a whole circle of people to depend on and some who just wish somebody -anybody at all!- would say “hello, how are you?”
Relationships are an important part of life. They either seem to be rewarding or draining or both at the same time. The peaks and pits of romance can be all consuming in their sublimity and their angst. Our families leave imprints on us for life. Friendships can exalt us but there is no sorrow quite like loneliness. Interactions with others can make or break us.
Physical and Mental Health
Its January 1st and where else do you find yourself but at the local gym eagerly getting roped into a year long contract. On January 9th you pat yourself on the back for declining the donuts that the boss brought in. By January 12th you find yourself talking on the phone while taking a leisurely stroll on the treadmill and selectively eating the croutons, cheese, and bacon bits from your salad. And on January 18th you aren’t even pretending to try anymore. Its back to pizza, mac and cheese, and hot dogs for dinner. Exercise? Pushing a grocery cart around the store counts, right?
The same story seems to happen with lots of other goals that have nothing to do with the rolls slowly accumulating around your midsection. Whether it be the never played guitar, the book collecting dust on the coffee table, the class you never seem to be able to get out of bed for, or the patience that you are waiting impatiently to be cultivated. We all have goals that get put on the backburner and never get around to. Life seems to busy now and the task too hard but these items remain a continual source of regret and shame. Until we do them! Then we get to feel like Superman.
Just when you think you’re done, you realize that this sphere encompasses so much more than maintaining a perfect body or conquering a few goals. There are physical elements outside of our control. Genetic defects, cancer, old age and many others come to mind. And what about mental illness? Mental illnesses of all types are devastating. To all these people, I am rooting for you! These are hard things that unfortunately take a real toll on happiness.
All of the aforementioned are great but what if you can’t pay your bills, are buried under a Mt. Everest of debt, and your money is gone before you ever even knew you just got paid? In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, physiological and safety needs come very first. These include things like food, water, shelter, employment, etc. Without these building blocks other needs cannot be fully met. And these basic building blocks take money. After you have enough money to cover your most very basic needs it is up to you to decide how much more money you will need to achieve your own specific goals and dreams.
Having a flow of income is only half the equation. If you want to keep that bank account full you also need to learn how to manage your money. This is essential to financial health and happiness. If you can’t keep track of how much is going where you’ll never have enough. This is true whether you make $50,000 or $500,000,000.
We’ve all heard the old adage, “Money doesn’t buy happiness.” Maybe so, but a healthy dose of financial how-to can buy you security and maybe even a bit of fun on the side. Money is means to an end. Whether those ends be a roof to put over your head, food to put in your children’s’ mouths, a full retirement account, a mustang convertible, or a second home in Aruba, money is important.
Interests and Pastimes
“If only I had more money, I would tour Japan.” “If only I had learned Spanish as a kid, it would have been so much easier.” “I just don’t have the time to cook anymore.” Excuses, excuses. Maybe valid, maybe not. The point is, we often let work or television or whatever it may be distract us from what it really is that we want to do. Our lives become so cluttered with tasks, emergencies, and absolute time wasters that we forget to live the lives that we really want.
Inside of each of us is an incredible person but who among us is living to our fullest potential? How many of us would be painters if we had the time, money, and right teacher? Who would be a writer? Who an inventor? An explorer? A singer? A fencing master? A master gardener? The possibilities are endless. So why don’t we do it? In order to fulfill this sphere of happiness we need to find ways to make the people we want to become a priority.
Spirituality and Beliefs
“Your sacred space is where you can find yourself over and over again.” — Joseph Campbell
To some reading this, you will nod your head in agreement. Your religion is the single most important factor in life. It is what wakes you up in the morning and gives you breath to live. To other readers, angry with religion or who don’t think about religion, spirituality may not seem at all important to happiness. But still others will know that I am not talking exclusively about religion. I am talking about spirituality.
This will mean something different to every reader. To some it might mean religion. You might be Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jewish, Baha’i, Hindu, Buddhist, Tao, Latter-day Saint, Sik, Pagan, Wiccan, Jehovah’s Witness, Unitarian, Jain, Scientologist, Zoroastrianism, Shinto, New Age, Diest, Agnostic, Atheist, or of any other belief. Religion gives adherents a moral framework, purpose, and a belief in something greater than themselves. This is wonderful! I encourage all to practice their religious faith as a way to fulfill spiritual needs.
You might not have a religious belief, or you might find your beliefs to be incomplete or changing. This does not mean that spirituality can not be an important factor in your life. Spirituality can take a number of forms. It might mean a connection to humanity, a belief in a greater power, learning through science all you can about our world, looking at the stars and feeling small, a connection to the earth, everyday acts of kindness, or even just a sense of wonder.
Everyone of us is different. You might find that some spheres take on a higher level of importance to you right now. This is normal! Focus on those. There might be one sphere that you are lacking in at the moment and seem unable to improve. Bolstering other spheres can help to compensate for a lack elsewhere until you are able to improve that area. No matter where you are right now, you can continue to grow on your journey to happiness. What spheres are you focusing on? Let me know in the comments below!
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