Many people think that being a teenager consists of going to school, having hobbies and spending time with friends. This may be true, we do many things that may be described as entertaining ourselves, but teenagers also think about their lives as a whole and question the sense of life or think about happiness. This article should allow an insight into the life of teenagers–and what really makes them feel happy.
Many studies claim that moment-by-moment happiness has a bigger influence on our general mood than external factors such as money (Kahneman and colleagues, 2004). It is true that extremely positive experiences don’t automatically lead to happiness but for example winning in the lottery can be used to make a dream coming true. So, the point is how one uses the extremely good or also bad experiences to influence one’s general level of happiness. Although this may be easy when looking at the life of an adult, teenagers are affected by their external circumstances and they are linked closely to their general level of happiness. This is because teenagers are much more dependent on these external factors than adults, as they aren’t able to look after themselves. For example, the organizing of free time depends on gender, age and also on social hierarchy and external circumstances such as money, etc. (Swiss Federal Statistical Office, Freizeitgestaltung 2003). This exemplifies the fact that teenagers are more restricted by their external circumstances than adults who have more freedom, as they have the power to adjust their way of life in the way they aim to do so.
Another factor affecting the happiness in one’s life is the thing that most people, including psychologists, describe as being oneself. Many experts simply say: Adjust your life so that you are able to be yourself! (e.g. Ruby Wax: Happiness is feeling good about who you are; How to be happy: expert advice) This statement offers help to lots of people, mostly not in our age, who struggle to find their sense of life. Many choose to live their dreams instead of just doing what is expected by the society. This statement isn’t really helpful for teenagers, as it is quite difficult to be oneself, if one doesn’t KNOW oneself, it’s basically just like writing an exam when not being prepared at all, a situation which may be familiar to you. It is important that teenagers also have time to think about who they actually are and what is good for them in order to be happy.
Another point is that teenagers should feel comfortable with how and what they are rather than simply adjusting themselves so that they fit in and don’t use the strengths which actually help them achieve a certain target. Using the example of going to parties and getting drunk; there are lots of people who don’t really enjoy that but just go there either to seem cool or simply to join their friends. In the end they haven’t spent the evening at home and felt comfortable but did adjust themselves.
Teenagers are definitely the most social kind of human beings, compare once how often you see teenagers on their own and people who are in their 30s. So basically, being a teenager should be the most happy phase in life as many studies claim that one can’t be happy alone (e.g. We can’t be happy alone, Dan Gilbert; What Makes Us Happy, Jamie Hale). This may be true to a certain extent, as social relationships are a very important part in the lives of millions of people and for these people a life without friends would be as harmful as being obese, smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being an alcoholic (study led by Dr Julianne Holt-Lunstad, of Brigham Young University in Utah).
BUT many people sigh relieved when they say: ‘Thank God that I’m not a teenager anymore’, so there must be people who feel perfectly fine on their own and know or feel that so-called friends can also be harmful. Our surroundings are able to influence us but also the people we live with can have a negative and long-term effect on us. This can happen in everyday life, for example when we feel that we’re forced to go to parties and get drunk because other people think that this is fun. So, friends should be chosen carefully in order that they also allow us to spend time on our own.
This doesn’t mean that isolation is healthy but that concentration on oneself can be useful to find friends who offer support and confidence which is important, especially for teenagers who are often insecure with what is actually good for them. In this case, receiving advice from a member of the family may be difficult. Honestly, who listens to his/her parents when they give a huge lecture on which friends have a negative influence on you, while they mostly don’t even know the person? So, advice from other likeminded people is much easier to accept and therefore those people should be chosen with a certain amount of reasoning.
Another factor which affects happiness, according to many studies, is age. Dr. Jennifer Aaker points out people get happier as they age, and are happy when they have the perception that they can control their time (What Makes Us Happy, Jamie Hale). It is true that the ability to control the time as we like may be a huge advantage in everyday life, as we can focus on our natural strengths and social relationships instead of attending meetings or sitting exams. Who doesn’t like the idea of a permanent holiday? But this perception of controlling time is mostly an illusion. An illusion which impacts us all. For example, elderly people can’t control their external circumstances to a full degree, and are even more dependent on the stability of their circumstances. Take for example, health issues such as illnesses, these are exactly as unpredictable as getting a cold is for a teenager. While it may be true that elderly people deal better with problems than teenagers, it has to be said that they simply have more experience in solving problems than teenagers. Additionally, the elderly are used to dealing with more complicated situations whereas younger people still have to find out how to tackle the complications.
This links to the fact that the happiness of teenagers isn’t discussed that often while one can find tons of material talking about the happiness in the lives of more mature people.
Although the emotions of teenagers vary a lot and mostly change every day, due to unevenness in amount of different hormones, we still have something which resembles the general level of happiness felt by adults. The level of happiness is just less stable and varies a lot within a certain range but this range is quite stable and constant. This is why the happiness of teenagers should be considered separately when evaluating the theme in general. Age matters a lot when looking at the different aspects of life, discussed earlier on, and how they add up to general levels of good feelings and experiences. This doesn’t necessarily mean that teenagers are completely unable to be happy for longer than half an hour, but that the life of teenagers is simply influenced differently by external circumstances such as relationships, loneliness or free time activities. People’s definition of the word differently is subjective and goes to show that happiness is individual and variable.
Happiness depends on people’s perception and so can be evident for individuals in a wide variety of situations and circumstances.