As we begin the New Year, I thought it would be appropriate to check out some of the greetings we shared this time of year. My unscientific assumption is that most of us really want to be happy. To me, it’s like a dashboard indicator that most of the pieces that make up my life usually work well and fit together. But how do you get it? I have long felt that happiness is a journey, not a place. Some have suggested that happiness is a daily decision made (or not). Both of these ideas are true, but not the whole story.
New Research on Happiness
There have been several recent studies that have examined the concept of happiness in more detail and scientifically than ever before. In his new book, The How of Happiness, Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky, of the University of California, concludes that 50 percent of happiness [consistently] may be genetic or socially 16-year-old. Another 10% is committed to their current living conditions (finances, relationships, work, etc.). And that leaves about 40% determined by something else. According to Lyubomirsky, that “something else” is our attitude, our attitude, our purpose and our expectations.
The irony of this study is that, yes, some people actually have an easy time to stay happy. While for others, this can be a bit stressful, it’s okay for me. There will always be people smarter than me in certain topics, more skilled in certain tasks, and more vocally “cordial” in certain areas (just ask my wife). The good news is that I still have at least 40% of what leads to my level of happiness every day. In fact, because my belief is that my health conditions are also strongly influenced by the decisions I make and the actions I take, I am actually able to control about 50% of my changing pleasures … and that is a bit short.
Happiness And Relationships
There are other important, new discoveries to happiness that should also be noted. In his book Stumbling on Happiness, Professor Daniel Gilbert notes that almost all happiness is found within our relationships with other people. While certain clever events (such as winning a prize, or achieving a goal) can bring a certain level of individual happiness, the most sustainable happy events may be viewed or practiced within the context of others in our lives. In support of this view, Lyubomirsky’s research participants who did not have a healthy, satisfying relationship often rated themselves as less happy in his Happiness Quiz.
It is also interesting to know a little about the relationship between happiness and money. While we have all heard that money cannot buy happiness (or love), there are certain situations where it cannot. But there are a few situations that need to be considered. According to Gilbert, money will contribute to a person’s happiness if you (1) use it well, 2) come from inferior ways to begin with, 3) have more than most other people in your circle of family, friends and acquaintances.
What We Can Do
My conclusion is that there are a few simple things each of us can do every day (every day?) That will provide us with a place to be happy.
- Practice the art of gratitude. Focusing on the things we already enjoy, we put ourselves in a position to do so easily and easily. A recent study by Professor Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that people who spend 30 minutes each day focusing on kindness, compassion, and gratitude actually began to change synaptic wiring hard in their brain within two weeks.
- Find your own speech. Let’s face it, it’s impossible to find happiness when your speech is constantly reminding yourself of how sad, unfortunate and how bad you are. Make it a practice to talk to you the way you would like to be … even if you are not there yet.
- Focus on enhancing quality relationships. Whether in the home, at work, or in the community, be a builder of people. Nothing is as powerful as the power of kindness, gratitude, and friendship directed to others that boomerangs come back to you directly.
- Look for other happy people. Do you know those people who often put you down, no matter how high you are? Limit your exposure to them. And if there are others (due to circumstances) you should share with them, be sure to set them up as much as they can see the glass is full and build it. Some of the most important decisions we make in life will be those that affect the people we choose to associate with.
My colleagues and good friend Sue Thomas recently shared a measure with her students from author and University of California professor John Schaar. While not particularly joyous, it speaks deeply of following and visiting. Roads should not be found, but made. And the task of getting them to change the manufacturer and the place they are going.”
Paul Meshanko is a dynamic speaker, writer and business owner who understands that it is not your thoughts but your thoughts that determine your success in life.
While many speakers are entertaining, Paul helps the audience to realize that greater productivity and fulfillment, in any aspect of life, requires more than just good entertainment. It involves the transformation of thinking processes and attitudes.