4 Ways To Increase Your Happiness

Raising Daughters | Increasing Your Happiness


What factors in our lives will help us to become and remain happy? In this podcast, learn how a strong marriage, becoming motivated by purpose and fulfillment, being mindful of your emotions, and savoring the moments in your life are critical determinants of happiness.

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4 Ways To Increase Your Happiness

Hello, friends, thanks so much for being here for Raising Daughters. I have a topic that I decided to do because I was looking through some articles and there were several about happiness. Some of them were talking about job fulfillment. Some of them were talking about relationships. Some were talking about loneliness. Some we’re talking about marriages. My wife and I will be celebrating soon our 43rd wedding anniversary if you can believe that.

I thought I would talk about some things that might allow us to feel more happy. There’s a lot of research out there and lots of studies. Some of them are somewhat contradictory about the most important factors you want to have in your life to help you become happier or to remain happy. I also feel like in this day and age, there are a lot of dissatisfactions in people in general. I did a recent episode that a lot of you probably heard talking about young people and jobs and finding your calling.

The research shows that a lot of people are dissatisfied with their jobs. They are not being very fulfilled in their jobs. Somewhere between 33% and 40% of marriages still end up in divorce. Those are some people who are unhappy at least for that but leading up to and maybe afterwards for a while. In this culture also, it’s move, move, more, more. Never enough. That’s even filtered down to our children who are running but their feet are paddling underwater like a swan swimming in a pond, just pedal, pedal, pedal.

Got to be in a better team, better grades, better university. More, more, faster, faster, faster, better, better and I don’t think that it’s letting our kids feel fulfilled and happy. It’s teaching them to feel stressed, and dissatisfied like it’s not enough. We’ve wanted this old Keeping Up the Joneses philosophy. I talked about this before, We’re not Keeping Up the Joneses next door because they just bought a new car or new fancy appliances.

We’re trying to Keeping Up with the Joneses children today. We don’t want our kids to get behind. That’s added to this frenetic pushing pushing pushing with extracurriculars, select sports teams, travel club teams, etc. In a sense, we won the race to nowhere but we’re losing. Let’s talk about some of the things that might be important for us to latch on that would be helpful to us in becoming more happy. Let me talk for a moment about marriage.

Raising Daughters | Increasing Your Happiness
Letters from my Grandfather – Timeless Wisdom For a Life Worth Living

Forty-five years ago, I was in the med school library studying. I was in my third year of medical school. I got up I think to go to the bathroom or something. I sat back down and someone had sat at my table. This very cute vivacious young woman. We started talking and we hit it off. I asked her to go down to the cafeteria and get a cup of coffee. We had a good time talking and then the rest was history. We started dating and then here we are 45 years later. Having been married this year for 43 years.

I’m sure all of you have stories about how you met your mate. I always say to people even to young people who I work with, there are also friends that that was the best decision of my life and the most important decision. I think it is for all of us most of us who we marry, who we pick because hopefully, it will be a lifelong commitment.

If you’re going to be with someone for 30 or 40 or 50 or 60-something years and I think if you have a happy marriage and everything falls from there, everything filters down from there including your children and their happiness. Let me talk for just a minute about some statistics about what’s true with marriages today. Almost 90% of the world’s population now live in countries with falling marriage rates. The US marriage rate has declined by 60% since the ‘70s.

While the medium age for the first marriage has increased for men and women. Now, it’s closer to 30. I think it’s 28 for women and 31 for men. The American Psychological Association estimates that the probability of a first marriage ending in divorce today, within the first ten years that is, is about 33%. That’s down from the 40s that it was 10, 20, 30 years ago. Still not good. The national marriage rate is on the decline. During the past few years even, the percentage of people getting married in the United States has been dropping steadily.

The last time the marriage rate increased in our country was before 2016. Between 2018 and 2019, the number of marriages dropped significantly by about 6%. The marriage rate now is about the lowest level ever in American history. In 1980, only 6% of 40-year-olds had never married. In 2021, 25% of 40-year-olds had never been married. Today’s marriages can look a little bit different. People were living together more before they got married. Some just live together and never get married.

A Happy Marriage

The top reasons for getting married used to be things like you’re in love and you want to have children. Today, it’s more about for a lot of people companionship, financial security, and being able to afford your apartment if there are two incomes. The number of people who have never married has also doubled since 1960 with 31% of all adults in that category never having been married. Many studies do show that our marriage perhaps is the most important factor.

A happy marriage is the most important determinant of being happy. I have an old story about this elder widower who was visiting his friend’s house for dinner one night. He knows that his friend was calling his wife all kinds of terms of endearment. Calling her honey and darling and he called her sweetheart and at one point he called his wife pumpkin. His friend said that was really sweet that they’d been married 50-something years and they were still close and he still had pet names for his wife. His friend looked at him and whispered, “To tell the truth, I forgot her name five years ago.”

According to a Gallup poll married people report higher levels of happiness and well-being than single counterparts. Experts suggest that this happiness gap is due in large part to the benefits of a happy marriage, which included in their study of more sex, less loneliness, more meaning, better-adjusted kids, and increased happiness just by being married.

According to a Gallup poll, married people report higher levels of happiness and well-being than their single counterparts. Share on X

It’s also interesting to note that research showed that fewer people today believe that marriage is vitally important. In 2006, 50% of young people said it was important for a couple to marry, they want to spend the rest of their lives together and be happy. By 2020, only 29% of young adults said that. There’s a lot of evidence to show that intimate relationships, not your career, not how much money you make, but intimate relationships are at the core of life and that those intimate relationships have a downstream effect on our happiness and everything else that we do.

Here’s the University of Chicago Economist, Sam Peltzman who has published a study in which she found that marriage was the most important differentiator between happy and unhappy people. He found that married people are 30 points higher than unmarried people when it comes to happiness on his scale. Income can contribute some but not very much. Marital quality he found, far away, was the top predictor of happiness and life satisfaction in the US.

The odds that men and women say that they’re happy are very happy with their lives was a staggering 545% higher for people who are happily married. Let me say that again. The odds that men and women say that they are very happy with their lives is 545% higher for people who are happily married. When it comes to predicting overall happiness, a good marriage is far more important than how much education you have, how much money you make, how often you have sex, and even how satisfied you are with your career and your work.

When everything else is considered, marriage and income are the most important factors in happiness followed by race education. Lastly, age and gender but most importantly marriage in many studies. I heard about this new group of people who had passed away and they went up to heaven. They were standing at the Pearly Gates and Saint Peter tells them, “All men who are henpecked on Earth, please step to the left and those who are the boss of their homes, you step to the right.” Only one man steps to the right. Saint Peter looked out and he asked him why he thought he belonged in that side. The man looked up sheepishly and he said, “Because this is where my wife told me to stand.”

It’s interesting that there’s no discernible difference between male and female happiness. Nor any long-term trend that says men or women are more or less happy. Females were a few points happier back in the ‘70s, but by 2000, men had similar advantages and similar rates of happiness. Somehow the sexes have converged. A happy marriage is a good thing. A happy marriage means that people are happier in most studies and oftentimes, that’s the most important determinant.

In most studies and oftentimes, a happy marriage is the most important determinant of happiness and fulfillment. Share on X

I’m not worried about young people getting married later today. In many studies already even though it’s still a small sample size, there’s a lower divorce rate among people who get married a little bit later. I don’t think the story has been told about that. About whether or not people getting married later in the long run will be happier, but that’ll be something to keep an eye on. I think another determinant of happiness that I have found a lot is that we had this old model that we’re still teaching our kids today.

That this is your life path. There’s one narrow path to happiness and fulfillment. When you’re a kid, it’s about getting good grades. It’s about being on the best teams. It’s about getting into a top college. It’s about getting a great job. It’s about making a lot of money. We are still conditioning kids to believe that that is the path to happiness and success and that everybody should walk that path including the straight A’s and the top colleges.

Even though we know that, if you look at all adults who are 25 years of age or older in this country today, only about 30, 33% of people have a four-year degree. I’ve said this before in other episodes, so I’ll link an old episode about this person in more detail, but I don’t want kids to be stuffed and smashed under this one path because it’s just not true. There’s also an old model out there that says that what you’re supposed to do in life when you’re 18, 21, 22 years of age if you’ve been to college, when you graduate from college, is you’re supposed to set a goal.

“I want this job. I want to make this income. That’s what I’m gunning for.” You put your nose to the grindstone and you grind, and you grind, and you work, you grind, always keeping that goal in mind. Someday you will reach that goal, you’ll get that level of CEO or whatever. You’ll make the money you want to make and then you’ll be happy, and then you’ll get your sense of fulfillment. I don’t believe that that’s really how it works. I mentioned it before in the episode too.

There’s a book called Dark Horse that talks about happiness and people who become successful. One thing that this author found was that people who end up being successful didn’t put their nose at a grindstone hoping that someday the reward would be happiness and fulfillment. They started by being fulfilled right from the start. They picked careers. They had the autonomy to pick what they loved. Things they were passionate about and things that they had an aptitude for. Things they were good at. Most importantly, things that fulfilled them right from the beginning.

Because they were doing something that they chose and that fulfilled them, they are more willing to work hard, to keep at it to persevere, to overcome obstacles, and overcome challenges and keep going. All along the way, they were happy and fulfilled because they started with that as one of the things that was most important.

I read this article by a positive psychology expert Tal Ben-Shahar. He came up with the term called the Arrival Fallacy. What he meant by that was it’s the process of working for a goal. As you work to the goal, you get to it. That future goal is what you’re going for. That’s the most important thing for you in life. He calls it a fallacy because like I said a minute ago, the arrival part is the most important part of our old thinking. The truth is maybe not so much.

When we’re going for a goal and we’re climbing the ladder, what happens is the reward system in our brain gets triggered. We get a shot of dopamine to that reward system as we’re working and as we’re thinking about that goal, as we’re thinking about someday I’m going to get what I want. I’m going to get the job. I’m going to get the title. I’m going to get the money. That gives us a square of dopamine and it hits the reward system. Unfortunately, the reward system is different than the pleasure center in our brain.

When dopamine and chemicals hit the pleasure center, we feel good and we feel happy, we feel relaxed. When dopamine hits the reward system something different happens. It causes us to be awake, to be alert, to be captivated. It causes us to be focused. It causes me to think if I just get this now, I’ll be happy at some point. It doesn’t create happiness and fulfillment. What it creates is instead a seeking, a craving, a desire, a wanting anticipation because that reward system was initially set up for us to survive and the initial reward was food.

When we came upon some food whether it was a blueberry on a bush or whether it was killing a deer, our brain learned to say, “Eat that now because you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow.” We were foragers. We were walking around. We weren’t storing things. We had no house and so our brain learned that we need this immediate reward thing set up to keep us seeking, to keep us hunting, to keep us wooing because if we have sex and we mate and we produce children, that’s a way to pass on our genes so our species survives.

The reward system is set up for survival. It wasn’t set to make us feel good. Even though you may get some short-term gains from being on that goal-oriented model, it doesn’t give you that sense of fulfillment and happiness. It’s like that old saying that you focus on the journey, not the destination. The destination means the job, the title, the money, the prestige whatever it is that you’re going towards for your goal. This is much better to enjoy the moments, the journey all along the way.

The reward system is set up for survival. It wasn't set up to make us feel good. Share on X

Again, that sense of fulfillment starts from the very beginning. I described before in an episode something I call a thrill hangover cycle. That goes like this. Because we’re on this rat race and it’s never enough and we don’t feel fulfilled by things and we’re just sort of grinding grinding grinding. nobody wants to feel that way. A sense of emptiness and restlessness is all there is. What we do to feel better is we reach for a thrill. A thrill like buying a new car. We go gambling. We have sex. We buy a new house.

We do something that in the short term gives us a shot of dopamine in our pleasure center. It feels good for a little while, but it doesn’t last. That new car or the smell in your new car doesn’t last very long. Does it? The good feeling you get from that thrill goes away after not very long and so you feel empty again. You get that hangover again and over time to hang over gets deeper.

We need to reach for another thrill to pull this out of it. It does for a little while, but then it wears off and then we’re back down again and we get caught in this cycle of thrills and hangovers. We never really feel content and happy and satisfied. A lot of people are caught up in that cycle, a lot of adults. I think it’s one of the reasons why we’re so unhappy. People have affairs. People spend money on things. People go shopping online and it works for a little while, but that initial jolt wears off because it’s not really what we need to feel happy.

We need to make sure if you’re involved in a thrilling hangover cycle to become aware of that and find some healthier things to pull yourself out of. Longer term things that make you feel good, relationships, quiet time, time in nature, things of that sort. I’ve met a lot of very successful business people over the last 25 or 30 years. A lot of them started their own businesses, worked hard, and worked long hours, not much time with the wives and with the kids or with the husbands and the kids.

They grind it out and they build this big business. They make a lot of money. At some point, they’re like, “I’m beaten, I’m fried. I need a break.” They’ll sell their business and they’ll make millions of dollars. They could retire at that moment and never work again. Sometimes I’ll see them a year later. I said, “I know you were going to retire. How’s it going?” They’ll say, “Well, I started another business.” They were so used to that rat race thing that filled them.

It’s like the hamster on the wheel pushing that lever to get more food because they had that never enough thing, not good enough thing that they didn’t really handle. They jump right back in and they’re right back in the thick of it. Kind of like a thrill hangover cycle. They’re adrenaline junkies if you will. I think one way for us to be happier, for us to to get rid of this old myth, this old model of the one path thing, and grind it out, someday you’ll be a happy thing, instead, be fulfilled from day one.


Look for things that fulfill you and then pour your heart and soul into that. Another thing, two more things I think pieces of they’ll help us become happy or stay happy. I think in this culture is you all I’m sure aware. We’ve gotten very externally motivating when it comes to our kids and ourselves. Our kids have been inundated their whole lives with being special being unique. We’ve been giving them smiley faces and lots of praise, lots of external kinds of things.


Raising Daughters | Increasing Your Happiness


Everybody is special, everybody gets a trophy. The schools have these rewards short charts to give prizes for people who stand in line and don’t hit somebody or whatever. Our kids have been getting addicted to praise. Along with that, girls, especially I work with girls as you know. Girls are still absorbing the conditioning of the good girl, being a good girl is still there. Just a week ago with this a group of sixth-grade girls in a school.

My wife and I are working with our Strong Girls Strong World program. We made a list of the qualities of a good girl. One of the qualities that they’ve absorbed if you are a good girl that all your parents and teachers and adults want you to be is you should always be happy. You should never be angry for sure. You should never be unhappy. You should always be happy with a smile on your face. Be nice to everybody and be happy, put other people’s needs before yours.

Of course, that’s not normal or realistic. Of course, we all have feelings of anxiety, anger, and sadness. It is part of life, but our kids are not learning that. They’re learning that you should be happy, our girls especially, and if you’re not, then whip out your phone and start scrolling. It’s so easy to start watching a YouTube video or you’re going to TikTok or any of those sites and distract yourself from your feelings and your thoughts.

For a little while, it works until you turn off the phone, if you ever do, and you’re alone with yourself, and those feelings and thoughts are still there and they come bubbling up. We’ve got to teach our kids that it’s okay to not always be happy. We have to teach them how to sit with their feelings, sit with their unhappiness, sit with their sadness, sit with their grief. Sit with their anxiety and learn to listen to those feelings about what those feelings are telling them.

We've got to teach our kids that it's okay to not always be happy. Share on X

Being Mindful In The Moment

I did an episode about this six months ago. I interviewed an author who wrote a book called Night Vision. I will put a link to that episode and my show notes as well. It was a great book talking about all of our dark emotions and how we’ve been doing a very bad job of learning how to deal with those. There’s been a lot of research into being mindful of being in the moment. Allowing yourself to be with yourself and being with your emotions.

They realized with this research that it wasn’t negative thoughts usually that cause us to be depressed or anxious or lose our motivation or other mental health issues. It’s when those thoughts become sticky. Those negative thoughts become sticky because we over-focus on them and we fight them. I think I’ve mentioned this before in an episode, but there is a study I read about at a university where they took a bunch of college students and divided the group in half just randomly.

They were in different rooms and they went up to one group at the start of the weekend. They said, “Look, all weekend long, I want you to not think about white bears, don’t think about white bears. Whatever you do not think about white bears,” then they sent them off. In the other group, they said, “All weekend long, I want you to think about white bears. Try your best to think about white bears all weekend long.” They sent them off.

When they came back to these later on Monday, they assessed the groups. Guess which one thought about white bears more. It was a group that was trying not to. I’ve read that book. I think this is true. When we’re trying hard not to think about something, we’re putting a lot of energy there. Don’t think about that. Don’t do that. The same thing happens with our thoughts. Don’t think about it. Don’t go there. What that does is in our brain, it labels that thought as important.

That thought could be a problem. It could be a danger. It could be a threat. That’s how our brains perceive it. Because of that, we think about it more because our brain wants to protect us from this potential danger. A lot of times we’re trying not to think about things and not feel things and stretch ourselves and end up being bigger and worse, then we become less happy.

As I mentioned before, our kids have become kind of stress-intolerant, distress-intolerant, anxiety-intolerant, sadness-intolerant, and grief-intolerant because we’re not teaching them how to deal with their feelings, or to use those feelings. The ability to be with those feelings in a very mindful way where we don’t attach ourselves to them. We don’t label ourselves with those. We don’t get all that. It’s the ability to sit with them that allows those feelings to diminish and to not have their hold on us.

Savoring The Moments

There’s another piece of this happiness puzzle. The pieces of the happiness pie are we’ve got to learn to be more mindful, more in the moment. Learn that it’s okay to have all kinds of feelings and if you allow yourself to be there, then you end up being happier and more content because those other feelings don’t become sticky. You deal with them. You channel them. You release them. What’s left over is happiness. One last piece here of the pie for becoming more happy.

There are lots of pieces. I’m only picking four today. That is savoring the moments. I think we need to be more focused on the moment. An awe experience is self-transcendent. They shift our attention away from ourselves me, me, me, and being unique and being the best and all that. If we shift our attention from that to being like, “We’re part of something bigger or something greater than ourselves.”

It makes us kinder. It makes us more generous to other people. There’s a lot of research that would back that up. They’re allowing us to be in those moments. It is so helpful for us to be kind, generous, and happy. I’ve noticed a lot of young people today. They become less. They’re still into things but I’ve noticed that especially people in their late 20s and 30s. They’re much more focused on experiences and less on stuff.

I’ve met a lot of young people who I counsel who moved to bigger cities like Chicago or New York or LA or Atlanta, cities like that. They get these one little tiny one-bedroom apartments or studio apartments or maybe a two-bedroom. They’re tiny, but they don’t care. They don’t want a lot of stuff. They’d rather take the money that they’re making and invest in experiences, great vacations, traveling, and being with other people.

People spend their time and money on doing things together, whether it’s taking a cool vacation, just going to the zoo, or doing all-day outings. People who do that report higher levels of happiness. People end up using that mind to buy things, a bigger house, a more expensive car, and more stuff, rather than spending their time and energy and your money on experiences. Being with other people creates much more happiness than when you buy things.

In my retreats on camps, we talk about savoring the moments. If we are having one of those moments during the weekend. I have a weekend retreat starting later today with about 20 high school girls, we may be out on a hike this weekend and we’ll be looking down at the river. We’ll see like an eagle fly by and so we’ll all stop. I’ll say, “Savor the moment.” We’re having a particularly vulnerable deep course room or learning times circles.

There’s lots of emotion and people are feeling very close to each other. I’ll say, “Stop. Savor the moment.” That means don’t just rush to the next thing. Be in those emotions for a moment where you feel close, where you feel happy or you feel connected, where you feel awe if you will. Let yourself feel it for a moment. Let it sink in. We’re so used to rushing off and scrolling to the next picture or the next site. We don’t sit with those moments. That’s step one of saving the moment.

Step two is when you’re in that space and feeling those good feelings, then it’s helpful to think of another memory you have. A time when you felt very similar. You think about that memory and how that memory felt and then those two memories in your brain coalesce. They come together and they both become stronger. Research has shown that that’s true. I think if we can learn to slow down, be more in the moments, savor the moments, be with them, and be with them, that will bring more happiness, contentment, satisfaction, and fulfillment because we’re allowing ourselves to feel it before we rush on to the next thing.

There’s a man named William Feather who has a nice quote that says, “Plenty of people miss their share of happiness. Not because they never found it but because they didn’t stop to enjoy it. It didn’t stop to smell the roses.” It’s also interesting that this one good research showed that when people are with other people who are altruistic, kind, giving, and serving, that kind of feeling and behavior will ripple through a group. Lots of things are contagious and ripple through groups. I’ve talked about this before that part of our brain is called mirror neurons. They are always scoping out what people are saying, doing, thinking, and all that.

We tend to want to mimic people because we want to have a sense of connection. Things like cheating on tests, vaping, getting drunk, sexuality, and depression. If you’re with people who are doing those things in your group, you’re more likely to also partake because our mirror neurons are saying, “If they’re all doing it, it must be okay. It must be a good thing. Plus I want to be part of this.”

We tend to want to mimic people because we want to have a sense of connection. Share on X

On the other hand, positive things are also contagious. Things like kindness. If you’re with kind people, you’re more likely to be kind. If you’re with happy people, you’re more likely to be happy. Love, altruism, and happiness, all those things are also contagious and our mirror neurons are also picking up on those. I saw one study by Nicholas Chris Dacus. He found that if one of your good friends became happier in the last six months, there’s a 45% chance that your happiness will also increase just because your friend does.

I heard a story about this classroom. There’s a new teacher for these young kids. She was trying to make use of her psychology classes from college. She was just a first-year teacher. She started one of her classes by saying, “Everybody in this class right now who thinks that they’re stupid, please stand up.” All the kids looked around each other. After a moment, nobody stood up but then this little boy named Johnny Stork and the teacher said, “Johnny, do you think that you’re stupid?” Johnny looked at her and said, “Not really, but I hate to see you standing up there all by yourself.”

Empathy is also contagious. Lots of things can spread. Viruses spread and anger spreads. You look what’s happening in our country when there are groups of people and people start screaming anger and it’s so polarized, that spreads. Happiness, gratitude, optimism, and kindness, those things also spread as well. I saw a study where scientists have found that doing kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being and happiness of any exercise that they had tested. Doing a kind act produced some single most reliable momentary increase in the well-being of anything that they had tried.

I think relationships are important for long-term happiness. Many studies say a happy marriage is one of the biggest determinants of happiness. I think that that makes sense why that would hold true. I think that having a different kind of mindset about where you’re going and doing things that fulfill you right from the start is important. Having a healthy look at that. I think also allowing yourself to feel all your feelings and being mindful about that so the feelings can come up and pass through you, the “negative ones.”

Savoring the moments, being in awe, and savoring those moments helps as well. I think empathy and acts of kindness is a huge one. I hear a story. I’ll end with this. There’s a little girl who had a birthday. A bunch of relatives had come over to her like the relative part and some of them gave her money. She’s got a little wad of cash. Her dad said he would take the book to the toy store so she could buy something.

She was looking around and she found this incredible doll that she fell in love with immediately. She went to the counter and she asked the clerk if she had enough money. The clerk said, “How much do you have?” and she told her, “Yes. You do have enough money for your doll.” She went back to get it but before she grabbed it, she noticed that there was a little boy about her age. He was going through the same decision process as she had been going through but he wanted this game of some sort.

The clerk told him he did not have enough money and this little boy looked really sad because he wanted that game. The little girl looked at the dolls. She looked at the little boy and she made a decision. She took the doll and put it back up on the shelf and she took the game that the little boy wanted. She brought it up to the clerk and she said, “Yes. You have enough money to buy that too.” She gave it to her and she whispered to the clerk.

She paid for it and then she and her dad walked out of the store. The little boy brought up a coloring book to buy and the cashier said, “By the way, you have won today’s grand prize and the grand prize is this game.” The little boy was ecstatic. The girl who had done this kindness and her dad were looking through the window. The dad turned to her and said, “Why did you do that?” The little girl turned to her dad she said that her grandparents had told her to buy something that would make her happy. That’s what it was. Kindness, empathy, and altruism.

I think people who immerse themselves in those kinds of things, in my experience, are always the happiest people I know. Hope this helps. Hope it helps to stop by here once a week and get a shot of something. I appreciate it. I’ll put a couple of the links I mentioned onto my show notes. Just go to Dr.Timjordan.com, my website. I’ll be back here as always in a week with the brand new episode. I appreciate you coming here. I always appreciate you sending this along or passing it along to people, friends relatives, or whoever. I’ll be back in a week. Thanks so much for stopping by.


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