“If you want happiness for an hour? Take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day? Go fishing.
If you want happiness for a year? Inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime? Help someone else.”
The subject of happiness has been getting a good deal of press lately. There is currently a surge of trade paperbacks on the market that can instruct us on finding our bliss and unlocking the “secrets” to happiness. I went to Amazon just to see how many and stopped at 50.
The prompting for my writing on the subject came from reading a piece in The New York Times Sunday Section (7/8/2012). A similar piece was written in Time Magazine and probably other publications as well. Research was conducted and the findings suggested that money cannot buy happiness (after a certain point above poverty level) and there was a dollar figure attached to that level. I found myself thinking, “That’s what my grandmother taught me!” She grew up with limited financial means and had her share of heartbreak and pain early on. She lived a very simple life and continued to celebrate life’s blessings and cope with additional pain and loss as years passed. Yet, even in difficult times, she would tell me she felt fulfilled in her life. She didn’t need fancy things to make herself feel good and made sure that I understood that. You could see the joy in her eyes and hear the lilt in her voice when she spoke of her children and grandchildren. She readily spoke of the importance of caring about family and being in good health.
Freud believed that well-being had to do with finding meaningful love and work. The Dalai Lama teaches that it is through self-knowledge and stillness (meditation) that we can achieve happiness by cultivating compassion for self and others. His teachings on the topic can be found in The Art of Happiness.
I encounter many people who struggle with feeling unfulfilled, while longing to have a different experience. They speak of feeling bombarded by day-to-day stress, experience increased pulls towards social disconnection, and get strong messages equating material consumption with happiness only to find that this type of pleasure is short lived. Yet, there are many people who feel content and fulfilled given the same set of circumstances. Who are these people and what do they do?
Historically, the Field of Psychology emphasized helping people overcome illness and distress so they can lead productive lives. Positive Psychology is a relatively new branch of psychology and studies the more “positive emotions”, researching those conditions and traits that enable a person to flourish beyond the absence of distress. Dr. Martin Seligman, one of the leading researchers in the field has a very informative website http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu. It is filled with useful articles, questionnaires and resources (I found it a bit overwhelming at first, but once I became familiar with the site I found it easier to navigate.)
So what does the research say? My Grandmother, Sigmund Freud, The Dalai Lama, and so many others have their wisdom now supported by research. Here are some highlights of the findings.
10 things you can actively do to enhance your sense of well-being.
- Practice random acts of kindness
- Keep a daily gratitude journal
- Work through resentments and focus on forgiveness
- Identify and use your strengths and talents
- Spend time with family and friends (positive relationships)
- Take care of your body (exercise, sleep, nutrition)
- Develop strategies to cope with (dis)stress
- Get to know yourself- sit quietly (meditation and reflection)
- Share your talents, time and resources with others
- Understand and accept that happiness comes from within
For Fun…Check out this youtube clip…Charles Schultz got it right as well. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=_iK9PLdVXK4
Wishing you peace, well-being, and happiness,