Are you happy? Can someone simply “get happy?” What does happiness mean to you, or how would you describe happiness?
According to Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, happiness is…
“the experience of joy, contentment of positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful and worthwhile.”
Would you agree with this definition of happiness?
I recently attended Western’s Exercise & Nutrition Symposium where I was able to listen to different speakers talk about all things health and fitness. Gillian Mandingo gave a fresh perspective on what it means to be happy and how we can chase it.
She talked about how she used to think happiness meant not being sad, and that we could either be happy or unhappy. I’ve learned that isn’t the case and that happiness and sadness are not two ends of the same continuum, they are separate constructs – you can be more happy or less happy, more sad or less sad and you can have each of them at the same time. They are called bittersweet emotions.
It’s only natural for us to want to have less lows and more highs but it’s important to know that happiness is not a place, a destination, a belonging… It’s a Feeling. It’s a state of feeling like sadness, frustration, boredom, excitement, contentment, joy, elation
It’s being human.
Mandingo’s recent study is about how to achieve or increase happiness and her perspective goes along with a lot of recent studies about how to achieve or increase happiness. Did you know that 50% of our capacity to be happy is linked to genetics, and 10% is related to our environment? That leaves a whopping 40% that is actually up to us and what we decide.
Setting aside genetics and conditions that require the assistance of medical intervention, what things can we do proactively to help ourselves be as happy as possible? First, it’s important to remember that happiness is a feeling, not a constant state of being. So, happiness isn’t about ignoring when we’re feeling low, it’s about feeling and dealing with those emotions and situations when they arise, and moving forward from them. Happiness isn’t a destination, it’s more of a practice. Here are some things you can do to feel happier more often.
It’s important have interpersonal connections. Harvard did an 8-year longitudinal study that indicated the biggest predictor of long-term health is social connections. It doesn’t have to be a huge group – even just one or two key people you can get together with and confide in is beneficial. Prioritize some face-to-face relationships.
This applies to both things and people. Sometimes, people in our lives can be “emotional vampires.” This term is used to describe people who draw on your emotions, your abilities and your relationship with them, but don’t offer anything for you in return. You don’t necessarily need to completely block these people out of your life, but you need to set limits and redirect their energy and attention to more positive things whenever possible. Also, let go of some of the things you think you “need’ to do – we can’t be superhuman and do everything all the time. Cut yourself some slack! While you’re at it, you should consider letting go of “things” you don’t need, to reduce clutter. All of this will result in lower stress and therefore an increased sense of well-being.
Check in on yourself throughout the day to see how you’re feeling. How are you feeling in the morning, after lunch, during your drive home, after your workout? See if you can find a pattern and maximize that knowledge. You can also take note of when you’re feeling down or less energetic, and find the common threads and try to change or eliminate them. I call this a “mind-body scan” – it’s a process that helps you become more self-aware.
You’ve probably heard a lot about this, but it really is a practice that makes you feel more positive. It can be as simple as starting with one thing each day and then adding different questions about things you appreciate. What are three things you love about yourself? Who is someone you’re grateful to have in your life, and why? What have you achieved recently or what amazing or interesting things have happened to you recently? Is there something special you learned this week? The possibilities of things you can think about are virtually endless, and will create more positivity.
While you can’t control everything all the time, you can take action that brings more positivity and more happiness into your life. You have more control than you may think.
Do you practice an attitude of gratitude? Do you think you can have any control over your own level of happiness? We’re chatting about it in my Facebook group. Come join the conversation!