Happiness is Love
We're so used to thinking we can meet our needs by buying something that we often don't stop to consider alternatives that might serve us better.
Think about our behavior in any gift-giving situation. Off we go to the store, even though we already possess the best gift we could ever give.
A famous Harvard study that followed graduates of the years 1939 to 1944 throughout their lives (some of them for over 70 years) found that those who were happiest had love – close personal relationships. "Love is happiness," said the study's lead psychologist, Dr. George Vaillant. "Happiness is love. Full stop."
In other words, anything that substitutes for human relationships in your life is a bad trade. If you crowd out relationships with work, politics, social media, material consumption, or anything else, you'll pay the price with your happiness.
Our society encourages us to focus on what we can get. We're expected to have ever-increasing lists of things we want to buy and do and places we want to go. And people who can't keep up with that? They're labeled lazy, or losers. We love things and use people.
But it's possible to achieve every goal on our lists while missing out on close relationships. We can make millions, summit Everest, or win an Oscar and still be lonely, depressed, even addicted – to money, power, adrenaline, porn, drugs, alcohol.
So get this straight: Love people. Use things.
And how do you show your love? Buying a gift is only one of many possible ways, even though it's our default behavior. Yes, it's possible that a carefully chosen, truly appropriate gift can bring the receiver pleasure and provide something they'll cherish for many years, perhaps forever.
But even that perfect gift is a stand-in for our feelings. And much more often gifts aren't so perfectly chosen, and end up as clutter.
You have it within your power to give the best gift, and it's something you can't buy.
Your loved one will never forget the time and undivided attention you give, the kind words you speak, the ways you listen and help, the sincere appreciation you show, and the happy times you share together, whether that means a simple walk and talk or something more elaborate. Actions speak louder than gifts.
And maybe this can go without saying, but one day devoted to a conspicuous show of love doesn't make up for 364 days of distraction and neglect, right? Love every day.
Most of the things we crave aren't essential. The things we desire seem attractive, but only a few satisfy something deep within.
Love is different. Love is happiness.
Happy Valentine's Day!