Are you happy?
It’s the million-dollar question…yet, what really is happiness?
Is it something earned or something captured?
Is it something we strive for? Is it something tangible?
Is it obtainable or is it always elusive?
Is it personality based and hard wired into our DNA? Or can it be learned?
There’s been a lot of discussion surrounding happiness in the last several years and some people are making extraordinary money off of writing and speaking on the subject. One of those people is Christine Carter – she has generated a lot of buzz through her blog and her Greater Good Science Center website.
Christine is a Sociologist who has a passion for all things related to happiness. She discusses both the scientific research and the practical application of what leads to an individual’s happiness.
To help the naysayers keeping reading….. 🙂 I bringing up the scientific side because there is a subset of our culture that believes that happiness is self-indulgent. My point is that facts and data are proving that without happiness we cannot flourish and be successful, period, end of story.
Our happiness has a direct impact on our successes in life. This is because the emotions surrounding happiness help increase the blood flow in our brains and to release the natural chemicals that generate happiness – it is a ying & yang cyclical cycle.
To flourish we need to consistently have a ratio of three or more positive emotions to one negative. When we can do this, we reach a tipping point that helps us to become resilient through the hard times – when life gets messy and difficult. This three to one ratio isn’t only about we feel in the present, it’s also about how we perceive our past and our potential future.
Our most powerful positive emotions are about other people. When we have love and compassion we have the ability to ride the wave of the messy bits of life. We can deal with the negative situations and the emotions that come with them in an efficient and effective way.
What researchers have discovered is that one of the simplest ways to be happy is through a wide and deep breadth of human connections. It is human connection that provides meaning to our life. Without meaning why go through the motions?
Check point – I’m not talking about our American society’s way of getting “drive through hits of pleasure” such as buying a new outfit, shoes, car, etc…these things don’t provide lasting and deep meaning to our lives. They are a temporary high that at times actually back fire when the bill arrives in our inbox a month later.
Recently I heard Christine being interviewed by Darren Hardy, and she made some good points about happiness. One of them resonated with me and got me thinking about how I could incorporate her point into my daily practice of Personal Mastery.
Christine says that happiness is a set of skills that we need to learn and practice so that we can become fluent in happiness. Man, I really liked this! Fluent in happiness!!! We can achieve happiness. Yes, we’ll need to work at it…no lasting change happens without focus, attention, determination and hard work.
Some of the research that Christine and others have done have shown that only 10% of our happiness is due to our external circumstances leaving 90% to our internal wiring, our intentional daily habits, and the choices we make. Whooo Hooooo!! Happiness is obtainable!
Here are seven habits that can help us to be happier (and the bonus is we’ll also be healthier!):
- Mindfulness – a daily practice of nonjudgmental awareness and being present as we move through our day. Staying focused on the present allows us to make deeper connections with others and it allows us to be grateful for what is good in our lives.
- Gratitude – developing a regular gratitude practice is one of the easiest ways to override our brains negativity bias – the tendency to focus on negative things. As my Grandmother used to say: Count your blessings! Focusing on what you are grateful for focuses your attention and thoughts on the positives pieces of life.
- Physical Wellness – taking care of our physical wellness has the most effective instant happiness booster of all. Happiness is good for our health and good health increases our happiness. Physical well-being decreases anxiety, depression, pessimism and an overall lack of enjoyment of daily life.
- Altruism – doing good things is an essential ingredient to happiness. How we spend our time and our resources is more important then the amount of money we make. Giving to others also releases endorphins and activates the part of our brain that is associated with trust, pleasure, and social connection.
- Authenticity, Vulnerability, and Forgiveness – having the courage to be your true and authentic self opens the door to the powerful process of being vulnerable. Vulnerability deepens the connection you have with others and it makes it easier to practice forgiveness. We are all human and we all make mistakes.
- Social Connection (Empathy & Compassion) – social connection should be the top of our to do list – it is the foundation of happiness. Connection with others boosts our mental and physical health and even increases our immunity system and longevity. Science shows that through practicing happiness, we make those we come in contact with happier. Yup, happiness is contagious!
- Meaning, Strengths, & Success – many of us were taught to work hard and be successful. When we are successful we’ll be happy. But this formula is backwards! Happiness actually fuels success, not the other way around. When are brains are positively focused it is over 30% more productive then when it is focused negatively or neutrally. The type of work we do which engages us, puts us into flow, and is using our strengths/values while aligned with our life’s why – is again one of the signs of true happiness. Finding a greater sense of meaning and purpose in life not only allows us to experience and enjoy life more fully, it helps us to live longer!
The good news is that happiness is a set of skills that we can learn and practice so that we can become fluent in happiness. As with any new habit, it takes 20 – 60 days to make the changes associated with a habit part of our regular processes without thinking.
I’m up for the challenge…how about you?
“Happiness is dependent on self-discipline. We are the biggest obstacles to our own happiness. It is much easier to do battle with society and with others than to fight our own nature.” – Dennis Prager