THE HAPPINESS MYTH

October 30, 2017 in Article

Everyone craves happiness! Surprisingly happiness is as attainable as it is elusive. Ask a hundred people what makes them happy and chances are you will get one hundred different answers.

What is this thing called happiness?

The scientific/positive psychologists define happiness as life satisfaction, or how happy are you in your relationships, environment, career, health and so on. That satisfaction is sometimes in comparison to others. How you view yourself (sort of like keeping up with the Joneses). One has to be careful to not be defined by somebody else’s opinion of who you are.

I believe ordinary folks (meaning not psychologists or scientists) would likely think of happiness in a feeling sense. For examples, the birth of a child, the beginning and ongoing contentment of romantic relationships, a vacation, a tasty meal, a scrumptious and delightful glass of wine, a wonderful hot bath, dancing, gardening, hiking, swimming, a massage. Any of these ordinary things can fill us with the feeling of being happy. How long the feelings last are another matter.

All the above can make us happy, AND if in the midst of those experiences, something else occurs, like losing one’s home, the death of a dear friend or family member. How does one maintain the happiness bug?

I don’t know the answer. I would say, that somewhere deep inside each of us is the ability to make choices about what we feel. Attitude matters. Just don’t impose your attitude on someone who is grieving!

Simplistic, yes. Honest, yes. Attainable, perhaps. Difficult, can be. And yet we persist.

Martin Seligman, one of the leaders of positive psychology says in his book “Learned Optimism,” and I quote; ” Our thoughts are not merely reactions to events, they change what ensues. For example, if we think we are helpless to make a difference in what our children become, we will be paralyzed when dealing with this facet of our lives. The very thought “Nothing I do matters” prevents us from acting. And so we cede control to our children’s peers and teachers, and to circumstances. When we overestimate our helplessness, other forces will take control and shape our children’s future.”

 Who then, decides my happiness? Your happiness?

When we feel hopeless or helpless, our happiness quotient goes way down. Getting it to the place we want it to be, is so much more than mind over matter. It is a choice. I know, listening to the news, and being aware of what’s happening in our society and the world, can be discouraging.

Despite that, we are the only ones in control of our emotions – or our happiness. Even when we are scared, we still have the choice to respond rather than react.

Uplifting choices can be the habits we embrace. Like the people we surround ourselves with, the books we read, the activities we engage in, do we wear a smile or a frown, do we exercise our bodies/minds, do we get enough sleep, drink enough water, eat the right foods. Are we grateful for what we have right here, right now. Do we take time for quiet reflection – be it prayer or meditation. These, I believe, are some of the ways in which our happiness quotient can be improved.

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.