How could Mr. Unhappy have relatively good circumstances but always be miserable? He blames his parents or teachers for his unhappiness even into his forties or fifties. Then you have Mr. Joyful who lost his whole family from some horrific tragedy but manages to piece things together and find joy.
What is happiness? Let me start by saying what it isn’t. It is not “pleasure.” While it might be pleasurable to scroll through FB or consume a pint of ice cream, it’s very short lived and usually followed by negative feelings (e.g. Why did I do that?). I’m referring to the joy that comes with knowing we are moving towards something truly positive.
For many years we were led to believe that happiness was only something inherited. You either had it or you didn’t. We now know that this isn’t true. Happiness can be cultivated by doing certain things. For more insight on this, check out The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor.
Practice gratitude – A study was done on a group of 4 year olds from negative (unhappy) environments in which they were asked to share 3 things they were grateful for each day. Their happiness levels were then measured and proven to be significantly higher. Since I actually have a 4 year old we started practicing this in our home. We’re not perfect and don’t always do it but when we do we feel better.
Control the media you take in – In another study, people who watched just 3 minutes of negative news in the morning were more likely to report the day as being “bad” than those who didn’t.
Social connections – Regardless of any other circumstance, social connections are correlated with our level of happiness. Social connectivity is as much of a predictor of life span as cessation of smoking. This doesn’t necessarily mean going to tons of dinner parties. It could be as simple as taking 2 minutes to call or e-mail someone letting them know how much you appreciate them.
Of course people who exercise regularly are also happier and better focused than their non-exercising counterparts. Physical exercise is one of the strongest combatants to stress, anxiety, and depression.
Written By Billy Hofacker , B.S., CSCS