Science Backed Happiness

“Contrary to what most of us believe, happiness does not simply happen to us. It’s something that we make happen, and it results from doing our best. Feeling fulfilled when we live up to our potentialities is what motivates differentiation and leads to evolution.”

– Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi 


Anyone who knows me well –  knows that I am passionate about happiness and it’s benefits. I talk so much about the benefits of happiness, that I’m sure I begin to sound like a broken record.  But as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow and co-founder of the Positive Psychology movement points out “happiness doesn’t just happen.”

Positive Psychology points out the many benefits to happiness.

    • Happiness brings large social rewards and interactions, superior work outcomes including higher income, more energy and activity, greater self-control and coping abilities, a bolstered immune system, and longevity.
    • Happy people demonstrate a self-serving bias, believing they are healthier, able to get along better with others, are more fun, have good ideas, are more intelligent, and are more ethical than others.
    • People who are positive about aging live 7.5 years longer than those with less positive perceptions. Interestingly, this benefit surpasses the results for smoking cessation, exercise, and obesity control.
    • People with increased SWB (subjective well-being) demonstrate high personal confidence, self-esteem, personal mastery, and control.
    • Happy people feel like they are in control and are empowered.
    • Characteristics related to positive affect include confidence, optimism, self-efficacy, likability, prosocial behavior, activity, energy, physical well-being, flexibility, creativity, and the ability to cope with stress.
    • People who experience positive emotions, namely joy and contentment, right after experiencing negative emotions recover faster cardiovascularly than ones who have no positive emotional experience.  This suggests that positive emotions may fuel psychological resilience.
    • In a longitudinal study of older Mexican Americans, individuals with higher reported positive affect versus lower positive affect were half as likely to have become disabled or dead during a two-year follow-up.

So I often say, Choose Happiness! As I pointed out in an earlier post, 40% of happiness  is up to you.

But what can you do to be happier?  In a recent article in Business Insider, writer Dina Spector listed 25 things that will make you happier.

Some of them made sense:

In a survey of 350 people, researchers found that those who felt more powerful were more satisfied with their lives, especially in their jobs.

But some of them were surprising:

Studies have shown that eating high-calorie comfort foods can make your happier. The downside is this will also make you fat.  As an alternative, a study published in the Journal of Behavioral and Brain Science in May 2013 found that simply drawing pictures of foods high in fat, like cupcakes or pizza, and foods that taste sweet, like strawberries, can also boost your mood.

The study showed that these 25 things will make you happier:

  • Draw pictures of healthy foods

  • Be both an optimist and a realist.

  • Get your hands dirty.

  • Become a florist or a gardener.

  • Have sex — with one partner.

  • Spend money on many small pleasures rather than a few big ones.

  • Eat lunch on the beach.

  • Make your bed.

  • Focus on what you’re doing right now.

  • Move to Australia . . . (not sure about that one! *a New Zealand joke!)

  • Eat seven servings of fruit and vegetables each day.

  • Maintain a position of power.

  • Master a skill.

  • Seal your worries in an envelope, literally

  • Surround yourself with happy people

  • Volunteer.

  • Play with puppies

  • Smile more (even if it’s fake)

  • Live in relatively cool temperatures.

  • List three good things that happened today.

  • Spend money to free up more time.

  • Stop comparing yourself to others

  • Shorten your commute to work

  • Exercise

  • Listen to upbeat music

It’s well worth looking at the article to understand the reasoning behind each of these suggestions.

I want to close with a great short video that describes positive psychology in less than five minutes.  A fun and succinct explanation.

 

 

Let me know if you read the article in Business Insider,  I’d love to hear what you think of it. And as always, thank you for stopping by.  I appreciate it.

 

 

Happiness – At least 40% is up to YOU!

“Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today.  I can choose which it shall be.  Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet.  I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”

― Groucho Marx


HAPPY – The Movie tells us in no uncertain terms that Happiness is within our grasp.

While 50% of our level of happiness is genetic, only 10% is attributed to circumstances (like income, health or the number of shoes in our closet).  The other 40% is up to us:  what we do, how we think and our intentions to be happy.

HAPPY is uplifting and insightful.  It asserts that we can actually re-wire our brains, altering its structure and function, by engaging in some simple activities.  And that happiness is a choice that everyone can make, everyday.  The movie outlines several ways to be happier:

  • Simple Meditation Practices (*see info below about the Compassion Meditation)
  • Physical activity, especially that which gets us “in the flow” and unaware of our surroundings, can contribute to chronic happiness
  • Other activities which get us “in the flow” – like playing music, doing something we love
  • Being of service
  • Community, being with friends, and of course, Love

This information is consistent with Martin Seligman’s findings:

Seligman’s Five Elements of Well-Being (PERMA):

  • Positive Emotions (P) – Feeling positive emotions such as joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe and love.
  • Engagement (E) – Being fully absorbed in activities that use your skills and challenge you. (Flow)
  • Relationships (R) – Having positive relationships is a universal requirement to well-being. (Community)
  • Meaning (M) – Belonging to and serving something you believe is bigger than yourself. (Service and Helping others)
  • Accomplishment (A) – Pursuing success, winning, achievement and mastery for their own sake. (Gratitude)

The Center for Investigating Healthy Minds (CIHM) is doing ground-breaking work on the subject of Meditation and Happiness.  One of the people interviewed in the movie is Dr. Richard Davidson:

Richard J. Davidson, PhD, is a renowned neuroscientist and one of the world’s leading experts on the impact of contemplative practices, such as meditation, on the brain. He is the founder and chair of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

He is perhaps best known for his groundbreaking work in studying emotion and the brain. A friend and confidante of the Dalai Lama, he is a highly sought after expert and speaker internationally. Time magazine named him one of the most influential people in the world.

The same meditation practice used in these studies is offered by CIHM online, free of charge. So it’s even easier to choose happiness!

If you haven’t seen the movie, please take the time to watch it. In my opinion, it is nothing less than life-altering!

 


 

Please let me know if you’ve seen HAPPY, and if so, what you thought of it.  And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

 

 

 

 

 

Living a happier life

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”

– Dalai Lama


Happiness seems to be the ultimate goal for so many of us, but the question always comes up, HOW?  How can I live a happier life?  I get asked this question in workshops and by friends when I talk (sometimes ad nauseum!) about living a happier life.  So I did some research about how to answer this basic question.

On one of my favorite website, Daily Good, there was a post recently by Action For Happiness. Action for Happiness outlines the 10 Keys to Happier Living.

These keys are simplified by the Acronym: GREAT DREAM

Giving – Do things for others;

Relating – Connect with People

Exercising – Take care of your body

Appreciating – Notice the world around you

Trying-out – Keep learning new things

Direction – Have goals to look forward to

Resilience – Find ways to bounce back

Emotion – Take a positive approach

Acceptance – Be comfortable with who you are

Meaning – Be a part of something bigger

For each of these ten keys –  there is information, questions, resources and a range of suggested actions to help you apply them in your daily life. It is well worth exploring this wonderful site!

Interestingly, as I researched this more, I was taken back in history, to about 300 BC, to the work for a man called Epicurus.  As an aside, I was quite drawn to his name, interestingly, because on the Enneagram, I am a Type 7 – The Epicure or The Enthusiast.  If you are not familiar with The Enneagram, it’s a model of human personality, which divides personality into 9 Types.  I slot quite well into Type 7 – I’m a planner and I have a need to be happy!

In the healthy state, the need to be happy induces Type Sevens to explore the world and genuinely appreciate what they find. They derive great happiness as a result, thus their need is satisfied and a balance is reached.

At the healthiest level: Assimilate experiences in depth, making them deeply grateful and appreciative for what they have. Become awed by the simple wonders of life: joyous and ecstatic. Intimations of spiritual reality, of the boundless goodness of life.

Of course there is the unhealthy, obsessive side to this as well.

In the unhealthy state, the basic fear of being being deprived can cause Type Sevens to numbly seek new and different sensations and adventures without truly appreciating the experience. This means they will derive little happiness from all the highs, which further increases Sevens’ feeling of emptiness and basic fear of being deprived. The cycle continues to build up.

Type 7s also have a history of debauchery and addiction . . .

Desperate to quell their anxieties, Type Sevens can be impulsive and infantile: do not know when to stop. Addictions and excess take their toll: debauched, depraved, dissipated escapists, offensive and abusive.

But that is another story!  I digress . . .

Back to Epicurus.  At the heart of Epicurus’s Philosophy is a simple thought – that we aren’t very good at knowing what will make us happy.  He boiled happiness down to three basic ingredients:

  1. Friends
  2. Freedom/Self-Sufficiency
  3. An Analyzed life

The 10 Keys and Epicurus echo each other in many areas – the main one being that we need friends and connection.  And they both reflect the Dalai Lama’s sentiment that Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.

I want to close with Epicurus On Happiness, well worth the 20 minutes to watch and to help answer the question How Can I Live a Happier Life?

 

I’d love to hear about your thoughts on Epicurus and his philosophy of happinss, and how you live a happier life.  And as always, thank you for stopping by, I appreciate it.