Happy people: What in the world is their secret? Are they wired differently? Or are they just luckier than many of us? 2014 was a roller coster ride of experiences, most of which where not that great. I have never been so anxious to see a year pass. So much so that my intent for 2015 is to be happy.
Whenever I come across a concept that I want to integrate into my life I always start with, what is it? I look at a number of definitions. I follow-up with research from a variety of sources, including: science, psychology, religion and of course spiritual that provide me a better ability to understand the causes and effects of my topic. Finally, I determine how I can incorporate what I have learned into my life.
So exactly what is being “happy”? First of all, most of us probably do not think we need a formal definition of happiness; and that we know it when we feel it. I have learned that happiness is a fuzzy concept and can mean many different things to people. Research on happiness indicates a number of similar concepts, ideas and theories, including: that it is personal, covers a range of positive and pleasant emotions, it deals with your overall life satisfaction and that it is partially genetic. The good news is, you have the ability to control how you feel—and with consistent practice, you can form life-long habits for a more satisfying and fulfilling life. The following are the top seven methods shared by most studies.
They make exercise a priority. Exercise has been shown to ease symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress, thanks to the the various brain chemicals that are released that amplify feelings of happiness and relaxation. Plus, working out makes us appreciate our bodies more. One study published in the Journal of Health Psychology found that exercise improved how people felt about their bodies — even if they didn’t lose weight or achieve noticeable improvements. If you don’t have your physical energy in good shape, then your mental energy (your focus), your emotional energy (your feelings), and your spiritual energy (your purpose) will all be negatively affected.
They let themselves loose track of time. When you’re immersed in an activity that is simultaneously challenging, invigorating and meaningful, you experience a joyful state called “flow.” Flow is a state in which it feels like time stands still. It’s when you’re so focused on what you’re doing that you become one with the task. Action and awareness are merged. You’re not hungry, sleepy, or emotional. You’re just completely engaged in the activity that you’re doing. Nothing is distracting you or competing for your focus. As explained by Pursuit-of-happiness.org, “In order for a Flow state to occur, you must see the activity as voluntary, enjoyable (intrinsically motivating), and it must require skill and be challenging (but not too challenging) with clear goals towards success.”
They put themselves first. Happy people know self-love isn’t selfish. They put their needs first because they see the power of showing up fully for others. When you take care of yourself, you help everyone else. If you sacrifice your needs in order to help others, you’re only showing up as half of yourself.
Practice spirituality. When we practice spirituality or religion, we recognize that life is bigger than us. We surrender the silly idea that we are the greatest thing ever. It enables us to connect to the source of all creation and embrace a connectedness with everything that exists. Some of the most accomplished people I know feel that they’re here doing work they’re “called to do.”
They are flexible. Even the best laid plans sometimes don’t always go as hoped. Being able to adjust to change will help prevent disappointment. While this may not come easy to you, by simply becoming aware of your inner dialogue, you can begin to change your go-to responses. People who feel at peace with their life recognize everything has a time and place. Relationships, jobs and experiences are all part of a bigger plan. Happy people recognize life is a balancing act between holding on and letting go — and they’re comfortable releasing things that no longer serve them.
They don’t need you to like them in other words, “What other people think about you is none of your business.” The happiest people I know don’t care what others say or think about them. We can get so bogged down in worrying about how we are or might be judged. At the end of the day, you’re the only one living your life. The only thing that matters is that you like yourself. This self-confident, infectious energy often attracts a lot of people.
Reprinted from my October 2015 Art of Life column in the Capital City Hues newspaper.