Happiness Is Closer Than You Think: It May Be WHAT You Think….
By Lisa Greene
Are you happy? Have you ever noticed that some people in life can be happy with very little and others can't seem to be happy even when they have a lot? As part of my master's degree program, I stumbled on a wonderful piece of writing from the book “Intimate Relationships, Marriages and Families” by DeGenova, Stinnet & Stinnet (2011, p. 124):
Happiness is a major life goal for most people. It can be defined as a state of great pleasure or it may be defined as a general satisfaction with life (Waterman, 1993). Our happiness is largely influenced by how we cope -- which includes how we perceive and appraise experiences, whether we focus on the positives or negatives in our lives, and whether we have realistic or very unrealistic expectations.
Much unhappiness is generated by depending on external events for happiness. Often we think, "I'd be happy if I had more money," or "I'll be happy when I find the right spouse/partner," or "when my partner changes," or "when I get a better job."
Believing that happiness is caused by external events results in people putting happiness on hold until the event happens, which may be infrequent or not at all. Also while the pleasure of the external event may be intense, it is also usually short-lived and may serve to undermine the pleasure that comes from smaller, but more dependable and consistent activities. For example, research indicates that the happiness of people who win the lottery is surprisingly short-lived. Why? Apparently the experience of winning so much money is so intense that it diminishes their joy in everyday activities that used to bring pleasure (Kleinke, 2002).
We can increase our happiness and life satisfaction by concentrating on what we can do within ourselves to enhance our physical, mental and emotional health (Insel and Roth, 2008; Kleinke, 2002). Research indicates that people who practice the following principles report being happier than those who do not:
- Develop optimistic, positive thinking; minimize negative thinking.
- Develop satisfying personal relationships.
- Maintain realistic expectations and rational appraisals of experiences.
- Enjoy the present.
- Enjoy the process rather than obsessing on the final outcome (enjoy planning
the party, decorating, and cooking as a part of having a party).
- Be productive at meaningful work.
- Eat nutritious, well-balanced meals.
- Exercise regularly.
- Get adequate sleep and rest.
- Use positive stress management strategies.
- Value and practice serenity.
(DeGenova, Stinnet & Stinnet, 2011, p. 124)
So, how can you increase your happiness today? Not sure where to start? Begin with counting your blessings. People who have a sense of gratitude feel happier. They feel better about their lives in the present and are more optimistic about the future. Their relationships and physical health are better; they even exercise more (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).
There is some truth, after all, to the old gospel hymn written in 1897 by John Oatman, Jr: “Count your blessings, name them one by one, Count your blessings, see what God hath done!”
DeGenova, M. K., Stinnett, N., & Stinnett, N. M. (2011). Intimate relationships, marriages & families. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389