Help Yourself to Happiness
Rick Forbus, PhD
Does your life have a high happiness quotient? Optimism is the root behavior that manifests in happy actions, and happy feelings. Like optimism, happiness is a thinking style that leads to an “acting” style. In other words, as an Emotional Intelligent indicator, optimism (the tendency to expect the best), brings forth happiness thinking and actions. In my world, happiness is a declared doctrine of belief. This does not mean that I am happy every day, but in general, I have embraced the doctrine of happiness. A doctrine, or, a set of strong guidelines, can be imagined and then put in a canon of daily activities. Of course, as our narcissistic selves can do, happiness can become an over-indulgent obsession, as well. Moderation is the key to good happiness balance.
Don’t cry because it’s over smile because it happened.
In an Internet article by Caroline Wilmut some interesting concepts are put forth regarding happiness. (http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/happiness_good_health)
The author asks this question: is happiness good for your health? Then, the article goes on to say:
Happiness may not cure what ails you, a recent study suggests, but it might keep you from getting sick in the first place.
Dutch researcher Ruut Veenhoven analyzed 30 previous studies on happiness, trying to identify the relationship between happiness and health. His results, published in the September issue of the Journal of Happiness Studies, suggest that happy people are less likely to get sick, but becoming happier won’t improve the health of someone who is already ill. Veenhoven also found that happiness seems to add several years to a person’s life—an effect comparable to the difference in lifespan between smokers and non-smokers. But again, this only pertains to healthy populations: If you’re already sick, becoming happier won’t help you live longer.
Veenhoven was not able to determine exactly how happiness might keep the body fit. He speculates that it might boost the functioning of the immune system, help people form social connections (a known factor in good health), or encourage healthy behaviors such as weight monitoring. However, all of these hypotheses have received only modest empirical support.
On the basis of his findings, Veenhoven argues that happiness is a public health concern. Though he says governments shouldn’t get too involved in people’s private lives, he believes policy makers should encourage institutions, such as schools and nursing homes, to pay greater attention to the happiness of their members.
“Governments should aim at greater happiness for a greater number of citizens,” says Veenhoven, “not only for the sake of better health, but also because of other benefits of happiness, such as better citizenship.”
I believe, very unscientifically, that happiness cures or empowers such things as:
o Over eating
o Social unrest
o Stress behaviors
o Relational dysfunctions
o Management style
o Leadership style
o Gratitude issues
o More and more…
Ever noticed a child that hums, sings and skips through the day? Should we as adults strive for some childlikeness to our personalities? I think so. My wife, Nancy is a very positive person. Not much gets her down. As I watch her, especially at times when I sense I’m getting stressed over something, she manages to allow her happiness quotient guide her through the situation. For her, I think it is just a natural default, for me, I have to work at it. The result, whether it is natural, or, contrived, is always better.
For Every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
In a PBS article the author (Name Unknown) cites some really good ideas about happiness. (www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife)
What does happiness mean to you?
Defining happiness Defining happiness can seem as elusive as achieving it. We want to be happy, and we can say whether we are or not, but can it really be defined, studied and measured? And can we use this learning to become happier? Psychologists say yes, and that there are good reasons for doing so. Positive psychology is “the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive.” These researchers’ work includes studying strengths, positive emotions, resilience, and happiness. Their argument is that only studying psychological disorders, gives us just part of the picture of mental health. We will learn more about well-being by studying our strengths and what makes us happy. The hope is that by better understanding human strengths, we can learn new ways to recover from or prevent disorders, and may even learn to become happier. So how do these researchers define happiness? Psychologist Ed Diener, author of Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, describes what psychologists call “subjective well-being” as a combination of life satisfaction and having more positive emotions than negative emotions. Martin Seligman, one of the leading researchers in positive psychology and author of Authentic Happiness, describes happiness as having three parts: pleasure, engagement, and meaning. Pleasure is the “feel good” part of happiness. Engagement refers to living a “good life” of work, family, friends, and hobbies. Meaning refers to using our strengths to contribute to a larger purpose. Seligman says that all three are important, but that of the three, engagement and meaning make the most difference to living a happy life.
My favorite days are days I choose to be happy. As insincere as that may sound, the choice is the catalyst for a happy attitudinal shift. This does not mean that bad things can happen or a person can cut me off in traffic anyway. It just means that I have chosen to be happy in spite of the circumstances. This kind of happiness thinking is just as intentional as having a grateful heart and view of life. You could say to yourself each day: I am grateful for this day and I am grateful for all that I have and all those who love me today. And, your day would at least start with you possessing a gratefulness of attitude that would probably bring about a thankfulness view of the day. Right? I believe (again, very unscientifically) that declaring you are happy in your heart will bring about some happy thinking and happy feelings. At least while you are thinking and feeling happy your stress levels will be lower. Right? Oh, this kind of thinking does not magically change your mortgage payment or your health issue, but the feelings and cognitive imaging will paint a much different portrait of the realities.
Watching my grandchildren “be” happy is so enriching. As adults we should watch children “being” happy and learn from them; imitate them. Love yourself enough to extend your life by trying to “be” happy.
Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.
Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
In another Internet article, http://curiosity.discovery.com/question/how-happiness-good-physical-health, happiness and health are examined.
Happiness can directly produce good effects on your health. Research has shown that happy people have a higher level of Immunoglobin A, an important immune system protein. Immunoglobin A helps your body protect itself from respiratory disease. Happiness also helps block harmful hormones from getting released in your body. For example, happiness tends to minimize stress, which limits the release of cortisol, a hormone related to heart disease. Chronic unhappiness, on the other hand, can trigger high releases of cortisol, increasing blood pressure and decreasing immunity. Perhaps most important to your overall health is that happy people tend to take more active steps to maintain and protect their wellbeing. Unhappy people, it has been found, tend not to take good care of themselves.
I have very unscientifically known this throughout my life. There seems to be something (now this above article tells us why) we feel better and less stressed when we are happy. Do you know people that seem to enjoy being unhappy and negative? Should you run from them? That will have to be your choice, but I do think unless you can help them become more conscious of their happiness they may bring you down. Set a good example to others with your happiness. You may be doing them a greater favor than they will ever imagine. Be a thermostat and change the environment by your happiness quotient.
Gather the crumbs of happiness and they will make you a loaf of contentment.
Why not set some happy goals this week? Some happy goals could be:
o List everything you are grateful for.
o Write a happiness statement. “I am happy about…”
o Start each day considering why happiness will be your intentional thinking process.
o Who in your life can you help “be” happier through your happy actions? (List their names.)
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