Happiness is something that is universally important, but is defined very differently in different cultures. Aristotle described happiness as coming from a life of meaning, of living with worth in doing. For people living in situations where basic needs are challenged, having basic needs met is a critical element driving personal happiness. For others, understanding what helps us feel “happy” broadens in concept and allows for us to pursue qualities and life style. This enables us to have a deeper understanding of happiness.

In the New York Times best seller, “Blue Zones of Happiness”, Dan Buettner explores cross culturally the underpinnings of happiness. In the annual World Happiness Report, the research indicates that 3/4 of human happiness is driven by 6 factors: strong economic growth, healthy life expectancy, quality social relationships, generosity, trust and freedom to live the life that right for you.

In a recent National Geographic article on the world’s happiest places, four places were highlighted: Costa Rica, Singapore, Denmark and Boulder, Colorado. Common elements described as leading to greater happiness include having a sense of purpose and lives that minimize stress and maximize joy.

I find myself frequently talking with families about both adult and teen happiness. I believe it is critical that we understand how we might best direct ourselves to lives lived with greater degrees of happiness so we can be powerful role models to teens and guide them. I often use the tag line, “Success does not lead to happiness, happiness leads us to success”. By living intentionally and mindfully we can make decisions about living life well with connection and purpose and perspective.