I am fortunate. I am basically a happy person. Ask my mother and she will tell you…I was also a happy baby.
Everyone wants to be happy. Sometimes it seems to be the purpose of life—the pursuit of happiness. All human beings want happiness and the causes of happiness. So, let’s take a look at some of the research (take a look at Sonja Lyubomirsky’s book “The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, Penguin Press, 2008) about this elusive state of being.
- Studies have found that older people are generally happier than younger ones.
- Money is necessary, but not a sufficient cause of happiness. In our country the very poor are lower in happiness, but once a person is comfortable, extra money adds little happiness.
- Married folks are happier than single adults - except when someone is in an unhappy marriage.
- There are no gender differences in happiness.
- Positive life circumstances contribute very little to one’s happiness—after a positive life event adults quickly go back to their “baseline” level of happiness. Even lottery winners!
- Genetics play a big role in happiness. Identical twins, even raised apart, had very similar levels of happiness, while fraternal twins showed smaller correlations between their levels of happiness.
- Religious adults are happier.
- Happiness is enhanced by what people do—activities that people engage in daily. (She attributes 40% of a person’s happiness to this ingredient).
So what does Dr. Lyubomomirsky recommend in order to increase your level of well-being?
Count your blessings.
- She recommends keeping a “gratitude journal” where weekly you list several things for which you feel thankful. Take time to let others know if they show up in your journal. Send a card or a note expressing your feelings.
Practice acts of kindness.
- Yup. Doing for others makes you feel good. It contributes to your happiness (and others too! You will be in their gratitude journal)
- Look for the silver lining in those dark clouds. Focus on what is going well in your life.
Learn to forgive.
- As my 92 year old friend, Dixie, loves to say--”Take no offense and if you do, be quick to forgive”. Taking offence is a choice, not a necessity.
Increase flow experiences.
- Flow experiences are those activities that you are fully engaged--so much so that you don’t notice the passage of time. These activities enhance your level of well-being.
Invest in relationships.
- Strong, positive relationships are an important element in happiness. Cultivate friendships and connections with others.
Savor the moment.
- Every morning when I arrive at work, I take a few moments in the parking lot, and take a deep breath. I look around and notice the landscape, the smell of the air, and trees, and the sky (I am fortunate, my office is at the Everett Marina). I savor this experience of the moment and then go into my office. This pause reminds me to live the moment!
Establish goals and commit to them.
- Forging a direction in life and staying on that track can be very important in feeling good about yourself. Making progress in your goals, even small, is energizing and motivating.
Be physically active.
- All animals with legs (yeah, that’s us!) need to move in space in order to be healthy and in balance. That does not mean driving in a car! Yet, so many of us haven’t incorporated regular exercise as a daily part of our lives. Walking is best and it’s easy to do,
Cultivate a spiritual practice.
- Nurture your spiritual self, whatever that means to you. I spend some time every day meditating and cultivating a calm mind. It has been a source of inspiration and peace for me.
What helps you nurture your well-being?