Saturday, April 19, 2014

Is Happiness Overrated?

Is Happiness Overrated?  What The Heck Is It?

Is happiness a part of your quality of life?  It isn't for everyone. Some would be fine with feeling safe and secure with meals on the table. Security is certainly a part of happiness, but it's just the beginning. We need to build on this like using a foundation of a home. To me, staying at that level would seem more like satisfaction or comfort rather than full blown happiness. Many are "happy" with being satisfied. I don't believe that this is an inspired life --- no Daring Adventure! There is richness to be found beyond just obtaining the basics of living.

The concept of "happiness" is a fairly new idea. Until the 19th Century most people lived a hard, uncertain and difficult life. It wasn't until some societies achieved a decent level of affluence that people beyond the upper classes had enough leisure to think about what made them happy.

Happiness is an elusive concept. Like beauty, happiness is in the eye of the beholder….there are a lot of different ideas about what makes it up. To enhance our quality of life we need to have focus and clarity
on what gives us happiness and keeps it in the forefront of our day to day awareness. Simplicity is best.

Americans have so many distractions from what is important that it's sometimes difficult to sort through to the gems of what makes us truly happy. A few thoughts from the wise through history:

  • "We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have."   ---Frederick Koenig
  •  "Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony"  ---Gandhi
  •  "Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn't stop to enjoy it."  ---William Feather
  • "That man is richest whose pleasures are cheapest."  ---Thoreau
  • "Learn to let go. That is the key to happiness."  --- Buddha

Being happy DOES have a lot to do with being present and having time to appreciate the positives of our lives ---- and letting go of the negative. And even letting go of the positives when it's time.

There's been lots of research on what makes people happy so I'll include a few of the recommendations from the findings:
  1. Keep active. Studies show immediate and long term benefits from just walking 10-15 minutes a day. There are more rewards for doing more. There's also a mental lift to regular activity. Exercise decreases stress and depression. 
  2. Develop positive, optimistic thinking! Fake it until you make it….Smile even when you aren't feeling particularly happy.  It's been shown to work…..Look at something that makes you laugh first thing in the morning and keep it going!
  3. Socialize. Get around some people who make you feel good, or who are doing something that you like. Close relationships are the #1 source of happiness.
  4. Be yourself. It takes a lot of work to worry about what people think about you. Look for friends who are accepting and are less judgmental. 
  5. Have some fun! Get into some enjoyable activity at least weekly. Check out a comedy on TV or at the movies, play cards with friends, get to the beach or the park. Schedule it in! A fun night or a date night, etc.

A couple of nice references:

"How To Be Happy, Dammit - A Cynics Guide to Spiritual Happiness," by Karen Salmansohn.
This is a clever, well designed book, which is funny and wise. Highly recommended!

"The Discovery of Happiness," edited by Stuart McCready. Contains sone history, some advice, and another beautifully designed book.

My reference guide and workbook which can be purchased from the link below.