Finding Happiness In A Big City

The happiest people are socially connected to family, friends, colleagues, and community who provide mutual support, companionship, and social activities. Intimacy with others fulfills two basic needs- the need for social connection with others and the need for personal growth which makes us feel alive.

In 2014, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention did a national survey and concluded that the United States biggest metropolis is also its unhappiest. New York came in last on the happiest city in America.

Living in a big city, like New York, can bring bouts of stress and loneliness. A city dweller can stand in a community or a crowd and paradoxically be isolated from other people. Not being able to be connected or identify within a group can be lonely. Being lonely is toxic to the well-being of an individual as it deteriorates one’s happiness and life-fulfillment.

Director Robert Wadinger, in a 75-year-old long-term research at Harvard, noted that good relationships kept the aging participants happier, healthier, and living longer. It is the quality of relationships that are really good for us.

Studies have shown that when people have one or more close friendships they appear to be happier. It is not the quantity of the social network that one has but the high-quality of the relationship. It is how often we cooperate in activities and share our personal feelings with a friend or relative.

To have a high-quality relationship, it requires a growing amount of “self-disclosure” or willingness to reveal one’s personal issues and feelings, and without it people with friends would still be lonely. It is a give and take of looking out for one another, having trust, and feeling closer to give and receive more social support.

As happiness is meant to be shared, fun and laughter are great stress relievers to experience. In a Gallup 2016 Global Emotions Report, 72% of the people worldwide reported they smiled or laughed “a lot” in a given day. Social networks were one of the high predictive of the scores on the positive experience index. 

One strategy for happiness is in our lifestyle choices. Even when living in large cities, getting involved in social activities and initiating to meet others can lead to a positive experience to further develop contentment.

Another strategy for happiness is cultivating effective positive emotions and deepening relationships. It is called “Active-Constructive Responding” which is the ability to express genuine interest in what people say and respond in encouraging ways. This form of communication builds trust and sharing opportunities. 

Loneliness can be eradicated in a big city when people have good social connections with others. Knowing that there is mutual social support from someone that we care about makes life meaningful.

As happy people like to hang out with happy people — let’s make each other happier.

Julie Liu, Readers Bureau, Fellow

Edited by Jesus Chan

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