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Are The Wise Less Happy?

I've seen information circulating for some time about the connection between intelligence and happiness. There is some research to suggest that those who are more intelligent are more prone to anxiety and depression than folks who score in the average intelligence range. Wisdom, however, may be an entirely different story.


What is wisdom? Not to sound like a valedictorian speech, but wisdom is defined by Merriam-Webster as the "ability to discern inner qualities and relationships" and "accumulated philosophical or scientific learning". We often associate wisdom with people in the older adult community. Maybe our grandmother was wise when she taught us the importance of cooking our food from scratch (oops, sorry grandma). Yet there is research to suggest that rates of depression and anxiety are higher in this population of people as compared to younger generations. So what can wisdom teach us about happiness?


A study from 2012 by Bergsma and Ardelt tested to see the correlation between wisdom and happiness. Through a survey of over 7,000 dutch people they found a link. Notably, the researchers found a linear correlation between those reflective dimensions of wisdom which include self-awareness and insight, and happiness. The research suggests that the more self-aware and insightful a person is about themselves and their experiences, the happier that person will feel.


So what do we do with this information? Self-awareness and insight are skills that anyone can learn and master. They are gained through appraisal of ourselves without judgment or bias. When we are able to humbly acknowledge all of the parts of who we are, good and bad, and review our lives in a search for lessons and meaning, we are able to find peace and thus happiness. This self-awareness and insight can be found by taking up a practice of journaling or meditation. The skills can also be developed with the help of a therapist in counseling. However you choose to find in remember that just being aware of who you are, where you are, and how you got here can help you live a happier life.

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