As I wish you Greater Success this year, I urge you to resolve to bring about Greater Happiness in your lives. Happiness doesn’t happen by chance; it is a way of life. Not our circumstances or our genetic makeup. It is upon us to lead HAPPIER LIVES!m
People are often heard saying, “I will be happy after I get my dream job, buy a new car, build a luxurious house, get a hike in pay scale, get married, start my business, etcetera. But does that happen? We soon get into another chase game. Chasing dreams and striving to achieve them is good, but should that determine, direct and drive our Happiness?
Every time we accomplish our goals, we experience A HIGH moment, as a fresh level of Dopamine, popularly known as the pleasure chemical, is released in our brain. Dopamine is often referred to as a ‘reward chemical’ as it enhances feelings of enjoyment, often compared to drug-induced High feeling, inspiring us to set new goals, take action and fulfil different desires and needs – to feel another HIGH!
That’s a great path for self-development! However, It becomes a matter of concern if it starts controlling a person’s average happiness index. After all, isn’t a Happy Person full of zest, enthusiasm and optimism, is more open to challenges, resilient, creative, focused, and more motivated to fuel performance and achieve success?
Not surprising that years of psychological research have shown the equation to be quite the opposite. Happiness doesn’t essentially follow success. On the contrary - Happiness is a precursor and not merely a consequence of success. HAPPINESS LEADS TO SUCCESS!
“Happiness is a deep sense of flourishing, not a mere pleasurable feeling or fleeting emotion but an optimal state of being.” - Matthieu Ricard.
In terms of positive psychology, ‘a happy person is someone who experiences frequent positive emotions, such as joy, interest, and pride, and infrequent negative emotions, such as sadness, anxiety and anger (Lyubomirsky et al., 2005)”.
It is impossible to be in a positive state all the time. After all, we go through challenges, bear the loss of objects or persons, experience betrayal, injustice, etc. Emotions are ‘our Energy in Motion’. They direct our attention and prepare us to deal with different situations (e.g. Sadness: Turn it to .your advantage, Anger – Use Thy Power). To maintain high Happiness Index, it is vital to take control of the situation and Gravitate to The Baseline Happy State.
Apart from the ‘feel good factor’, Happiness is essential for the well-being of a person, the Productivity of Organizations and the Prosperity of Countries! No wonder the topic has been extensively researched by scholars of diverse fields, including – psychiatry, psychology, neurobiology, physics, management science, mathematics, quantum physics, economics, religion, mysticism, cosmology, spirituality, modern and ancient philosophy, etc.
Lead better quantity of life.
Cope effectively with the inevitable bad times
Enjoy better overall health, are half as likely to catch the cold virus (1) and have a 50% lower risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke. (2)
Are better at decision-making and more creative.
Perform better and are more productive at work. A recent study by economists at the University of Warwick found that happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy workers proved 10% less productive.
Outperform the stock market year on year as per a study by Wharton Business
People who are happy as young adults go on to earn more than their peers later in life, as per a study by UCL (3)
Are less likely to engage in risky behaviour.
They are found to be more financially responsible, tend to save more and have more control over their expenditures. (4)
Make a positive contribution to society, as they are more likely to vote, do and participate in community services. They tend to have tremendous respect for law and order and offer more help to others.
Prolonged inability to attain ‘the Equilibrium of Happiness’ may severely disrupt a person’s coping mechanism and lead to stress, anxiety, depression and other grave issues.
The following statistics exemplify various problems the condition can lead to:
121 million people worldwide are currently living with some form of depression
Many people who suffer from an anxiety disorder also suffer from depression and vice versa. Nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States alone. (Source: National Institute of Mental Health)
Anxiety disorders cost the U.S. more than $42 billion a year, almost one-third of the country's $148 billion total mental health bill, according to "The Economic Burden of Anxiety Disorders," a study commissioned by ADAA.
DEFINE WHAT HAPPINESS MEANS TO YOU!
It is essential to identify, comprehend and define what we seek, especially if it is general and broadly described as happiness. Our definition of Happiness has a significant impact on our actions! Simply put, we avoid pain and are directed towards what gives pleasure to us. Thus what gives us Happiness pretty much influences the choices we make, the decisions we make, the relationships we develop etc.
As the perception of Happiness is very subjective, Psychologists often refer to Happiness as ‘Subjective Well Being’ (SWB), which refers to a person’s perception and affective evaluations of his or her life. Hence, a person with a HIGH LEVEL OF SATISFACTION WITH LIFE, experiencing A GREATER POSITIVE AFFECT and little or LESS NEGATIVE AFFECT, would have a high level of SWB & be connoted as HAPPIER.
WHAT DETERMINES OUR HAPPINESS?
People often attribute ‘their Happiness to Circumstances, Genetic Makeup, Destiny etc.’ For the sake of unmasking the Myths attributed to Happiness, here is what years of Research say:
Circumstantial factors such as income, socioeconomic status, education, marriage, etc., which are significantly associated with individual happiness, account for no more than 3% to 10% of the variation (Frey, 2008; Layard, 2005). Besides, changes in these variables bring about only short-term changes.
Genetics and environmental factors contribute to 33% - 50% of a person’s Happiness (Subjective Well-being).
This implies: That around 40% TO 50% DEPENDS ON US! And that’s a LOT!
How Can We INCREASE our HAPPINESS?
That’s a HUGE QUESTION with a SIMPLE ANSWER - Change the HABITS that debilitate you, bring your positivity down, Develop coping solid skills and TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR HAPPINESS!
If the determination to change is strong -Nothing, not even the genetic makeup, can be an obstacle!
In the Words of Dalai Lama XIV -
“A disciplined mind leads to happiness, and an undisciplined mind leads to suffering.”
HAPPINESS IS A WAY OF BEING WISE- it is a way of living, a thought process, a habit THAT CAN BE INCULCATED!
We are not merely victims of our circumstances. A lot depends upon how we interpret the situation, evaluate the conditions and cope with the challenges. Our thought process plays a major role in Empowering us with optimistic thoughts or stripping our hopes with Disempowering beliefs.
Happiness is a how, not a what; a talent, not an object - Hermann Hesse.
LEARN TO BE HAPPY
1. Love thy self: Knowing and accepting oneself is essential for Happiness.
People are often caught between their actual selves and their ideal self. They constantly feel guilty and unaccepting of their inadequacies, causing perpetual unhappiness. Accepting oneself does not mean maintaining the status quo or living with our weaknesses. It is taking accountability, moving with responsibility, believing in oneself, and being able to move on the path of Self Improvement without being judgmental and critical of oneself. Negative feelings about oneself only deplete energy, bring down self-confidence, and reduce the ability to take action.
People who fail to accept themselves fall into the habit of unnecessarily blaming themselves brashly for all that goes wrong. They suffer from low self-regard and constantly judge themselves in the eyes of others. “What will they say, will she/he approve, etc.”. Don’t let others dictate your worth and control your happiness!!!
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt.
It is essential to remind ourselves that we have our strengths and weaknesses. It is in our control to use them appropriately. Taking ownership of our actions and being responsible gives us the power to change our situation. This power gives immense self-confidence, promotes positive feelings, enhances life satisfaction and engenders happiness.
2. Build Optimism: Every difficult situation is an opportunity to explore new possibilities. Circumstances don’t shape us; we evolve, grow and metamorphose into stronger individuals after facing challenging situations.
“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” – William Shakespeare.
A realistic assessment of the situation is imperative for developing an appropriate strategy to combat a situation. However, over-optimism may lead to under-assessment of danger and lead inappropriate preparedness. In contrast, loss of optimism, on the other hand, may lead to helplessness and lack of initiative. Adopting a positive CAN DO approach enhances confidence during adverse conditions, and helps in planning, recovering, and sustaining pervasive feelings of happiness.
3. Be Proactive, Not Reactive: Use your resources well to evaluate the situation, weigh the pros and cons, and plan your strategy - before reaching a decision.
“Between a stimulus & response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”- Viktor Frankl.
Once a decision is made, take responsibility for the actions you take and the choices you make. ‘ Many people digress to a dissonant state immediately after making a choice or if someone apprises them of a counter perspective. For example, after buying a house, they might start thinking of how grave a mistake it is to buy under the current market situation! Once a decision is made, corrective action can be taken, but brooding over the decision can only be debilitating.
It is essential to respond to decisions in a balanced way while trying to reduce dissonance, maintain positivity and promote well-being.
4. Stop Dwelling on Failure: Not every attempt is successful! Failure should not lead to a chain reaction of thoughts linking to past failures, leading to self-criticism and demeaning oneself.
Repetitive reflection and rumination lead to adverse outcomes, including poor problem-solving, negatively-biased thinking, impaired motivation and concentration, and increased stress and problems. Prolonged dwelling, especially when done in a negative mood, triggers unhappiness.
Beware, refrain from succumbing to failure, and maintain your positive attitude with inner peace and happiness.
In the words of Thomas A. Edison - “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”
Some people constantly fear failure and that they will lose their wealth, health, position, job, spouse, etc. Have confidence in your abilities, focus on self-development, and get rid of ‘disempowering beliefs'!
5. Maintain Social Relationships: Our relationships with other people provide love, support, and meaning and increase our self-worth. Well-developed relationships give a feeling of security; they help shield from the adverse effects of life’s daily demands. These relationships can enhance and sustain pervasive feelings of happiness. Invest time and energy in developing quality relationships.
6. Avoid Social comparison: It is essential to focus on one’s goals and achievements and maintain positivity despite inevitable fluctuations in one’s performance relative to others. Comparing material gains, successes, achievements, etc., with others leads to feelings of self-deprecating, unhappy states.
Multiply your happiness by being happy in others' happiness and harness your feeling of self-worth by helping others in their time of need.
7. Practice Forgiveness: Everyone experiences setbacks or bad experiences in some form, for example, deceit, heartbreak, carrier setback, personal loss, grief, etc. We can either stay in vengeance mode, keeping our wounds soar, waiting to take revenge and wishing something terrible to happen to the person responsible, OR we can set ourselves free from constant heartburn, pain and suffering by detaching from the person completely releasing ourselves from the bond of taking revenge.
Forgiveness gives the option to be free from the person or the event that caused distress in the past. It is the choice between past and future, being right or Happy!
8. Help others: Caring about others by contributing to their well-being boosts our happiness as we add more meaning, value and a larger sense of purpose to our lives. The more value we assign ourselves by helping others, the more it enhances our self-worth, making us feel highly satisfied and Happy.
9. Express Gratitude: When we realize how much people have done for us or how much we have accomplished, we feel more confident and efficacious. Many people have the habit of focusing on failures and disappointments or on other people’s slights and hurts. Gratefulness can help unlearn this habit. The practice of gratitude encourages a person to value life and be thankful that things aren’t worse.
10. Dream & STRIVE: Happiness comes from a willingness to learn and grow on a journey aligned with your values. Feeling good about the future is very important for our happiness. Choosing meaningful but realistic goals gives our lives direction and brings a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when we achieve them. Nothing is more intoxicating than success! Strive High for your Next High!
Happiness is a way of living life, a thought process, and an ability to enjoy what we have. If we structure our lives in a way that our happiness is dependent upon something we cannot control, we will experience pain. Knowing oneself, developing positive self-regard, building optimism, creating good relationships, managing our emotions, etc., are key Emotional Intelligence skills that can enhance Happiness! (STRIVE HIGH holds courses on developing EI skills from time to time. To find out about upcoming workshops, please email email@example.com )
Research indicates that happier people do better in life because positive emotions actively help people create desirable outcomes. Happiness is finding joy ‘within’ rather than ‘seeking outside’. It gives us the strength and confidence to face future challenges. It is a practice, a habit and 'should not be momentous’ but 'should be continuous’.
I wish you a HAPPY New Year!
(1)(http://www.psy.cmu.edu) (2)(http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/positive-emotions-cardiovascular-health/ )
(3) http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/1211/20112012-happy-children-wealthy-adults )