Teenagers are humans. Whilst sometimes seeming as though a different species we are one and the same, and need to be treated as such. Teenagers are affected by life differently compared to adults or children, as a teenager the protective layer of childhood is gone but the hard walls of adulthood have yet to grow, leaving the teen alone and naked to outside influences. This makes it easy to influence teens and these influences often influence their perception of happiness, and whether or not they feel it.
Media, parents, friends and family are what influence a teen and their happiness. A supportive family can do wonders to self esteem, self confidence and self reliance as well as happiness. Teens need to be able to breathe, to live and explore, not to be cooped up and protected at all times. Mistakes need to be made and even when they seem as though these mistakes may darken them forever, in the long term, learning these lessons early is more likely to leave them with a tougher skin and the ability to move beyond future experiences of the same sort with confidence and the ability to remain happy. When this happens it is similar to the hedonic treadmill, a principal of happiness that states that no matter what happens, positive or negative, the happiness of the person experiencing these events will soon return to the original level of happiness. In short external events do not affect long term happiness.
Teenagers seem to live by the hedonic theory, they bounce back quickly and healthily and are able to move beyond negative events without difficulty, and yet, unlike most mature (adult) humans, teenagers are still developing.
The Hedonic theory suggests we return to an original level of happiness after short term fluctuations in happiness provoked by external events. Yet alongside this and perhaps in contrast to this there is the fact that teenagers learn from their negative and positive experiences and these life lessons do seem to affect long term happiness. If a teenager experiences a bad relationship they hopefully learn from it, and in the long term are happier. The same for positive experiences, when they experience something positive that makes them happy they are more likely to continue doing this, which also influences long term happiness.
It is said that risks often increase a teenagers happiness, stepping outside the box, moving beyond one’s comfort zone, all these are said to increase happiness levels in a developing teenage brain (Agnieszka Tymula). Taking risks does not necessarily mean bungee jumping or extreme snowboarding, although, those can also be included, but it can also mean volunteering at a local animal shelter or assisting at a daycare or after school program for kids. Studies made by Agnieszka Tymula show and explain how the teenage, developing, brain is more drawn to risks and the unknown than a developed one.
Risk taking also includes having an identity. In today’s society media has an overwhelming influence on young humans. When in the city, everywhere one looks there are images of tiny women and muscular men, on everything from car advertisements to fashion campaigns which put images of perfection into teenage minds. In today’s society it is very important that teenagers understand that individuality and authenticity are far more important than attempting to fit into the media’s idea of perfect. Abraham Maslow has a background in psychological health and its relation to happiness he believes that, “the quest for identity and autonomy, the yearning for excellence must be now accepted beyond question as a widespread and perhaps universal human tendency”. This shows that society as a whole needs to attempt to repair the damage created by media that is being caused at all times to the teenage brain. The unrealistic beauty ideals that media applies to humans only cause damage, especially to teens. Anorexia, anxiety and depression, to name a few of the serious issues which can be triggered by a bombardment of these images. Messages in the media can and do affect the happiness of teens.
To conclude, for a teenager to develop into a healthy and happy human being, we need to be supported by family and friends, allowed space to breathe, take risks, survive disappointment and develop in a natural way, learning how to be unaffected by the negativity of life and how to cope with disappointment and failure.
Life is not perfect, man is not perfect, and more often than not, man is unhappy. And yet being happy is perhaps easier and more attainable than we all may think, as Walt Disney once said, “happiness is a state of mind. It’s just according to the way you look at things.”