"Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to yourself and others. " Buddha
I've been studying the new field of Positive Psychology ‘finally a psychology that is rigorously studying what is right with people. I am excited to find that this research points to what spiritual truths already tell us - you are meant to be happy, to live the life you choose AND, your thinking influences your happiness.
Nobody comes to me for coaching saying “help me be happier". But really ‘that underlies every person's seeking new job, a better relationship, more money - the thought that if you had that you would be happy. Guess what? You are probably already pretty happy ‘research shows us that most people are mildly happy most of the time - we're wired that way. We are able to adjust to and overcome personal difficulties with inspiring levels of resilience. And, a vast majority of people are able to overcome distress, find meaning and seek out enjoyable experiences and relationships.
What is happiness? Happiness is often seen as trivial, lighthearted, and not nearly as important as the weightier matters of work and family. Researchers say that happiness is the “experience of frequent, mildly pleasant emotions, the relative absence of unpleasant feelings, and a general feeling of satisfaction with one's life. " Happiness is much more than a destination. Feeling positive is like having money in the bank that can be spent on the pursuit of other goals. Happiness is one of your greatest resources that you may be overlooking.
There are many benefits to being happy. Happiness is associated with better health, more creativity, higher income, and better workplace evaluations. Happy people tend to be more helpful, creative, charitable, altruistic and healthier. They live longer, are more likely to marry, tend to stay married longer, tend to have more friends and actually earn more money.
How can you be happier? What is it that very happy folks actually do differently than the rest of us? Are they smarter, or more energetic or kinder? There is a strong genetic component to happiness ‘about 50% of our levels of happiness are genetically based, life circumstances like economic status, race and sex account for about 10% and the good news is that the other 40% is personal choice.
Set a realistic expectation about happiness ‘mildly pleasant most of the time is just fine. We are not meant to be wildly euphoric all the time. One of the most powerful ways to increase happiness is to not expect fulfillment to be extremely intense or permanent.
What is the optimal level of happiness? Most of us are in the mildly positive range. If you imagine happiness on a scale from 1 to 10, then the majority of us would level off somewhere in the 6, 7 or 8 range. We have emotional highs and come back to mildly pleasant rather quickly.
Happy people have a trinity of happiness habits: they set goals, have rewarding social relationships and practice positive mental habits. These three practices can maximize your ability to live the life you want.
1. Set goals that are attainable, time bound, concrete, and that fit your values. You want to be moving towards something positive with your goals (for example, give a presentation that is well received) rather than avoiding something negative with your goal (don't embarrass myself when giving the presentation). Goals that seek out a desirable outcome rather than avoiding negative consequences will give you satisfaction.
Happiness is a process rather than a destination. People who achieve goals that are important to them tend to savor the accomplishment and then move on to soar to new heights. The satisfaction that comes with achievement can be looked at as an emotional paycheck for a job well done. That paycheck can then be spent as a resource to work toward other new goals. In this way, happiness is a cup that truly overflows.
2. Happy people tend to their relationships as if they were gardens. They tend to the weeds with forgiveness and gratitude and supply lots of nourishment. Listen to this: the single quality shared by the happiest people is that they tend to have an abundance of rewarding social ties.
Be careful about putting too much weight on luxury, money and material goals. One of the most toxic aspects of materialistic values, psychologically speaking, is that these pursuits can steal time and attention away from nurturing relationships.
Practicing gratitude can help maintain close connections with others. Gratitude is linked to more helping behaviors, high positive emotions, life satisfaction, increased hope and lower feelings of anxiety and envy.
3. Happy people use positive thinking habits to maintain a sense of well being. They are less prone to self reflection (especially rumination about negative past events), less likely to engage in negative comparisons with peers, and are more likely to think of events positively (minimize daily hassles and savor the pleasure of successes). Research shows that anyone can get into the habit of “thinking happy. " Where is your attention focused? Focus on your personal wins, compliments, encouragement. Look for and appreciate the bright side of life. The way you think about the future - having an upbeat outlook is an important predictor of future success. Train your mind ‘you will see the results in your outer world!
So go ahead, set a new goal, start practicing gratitude, and watch your thoughts. What will you do differently today to begin living your life the way YOU want?
Ann Ronan, Ph. D. , RScP provides teaching, coaching and writing to help others live authentic lives doing what they most love. Receive her free e-course on the Top Ten Ways to Live Authentically - register at http://www.authenticlifeinstitute.com to begin this step-by-step program today.