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"I'll finally be content when I find the perfect partner, lose weight, get my dream job...Whoops, where did my life go"?
“I’ll finally be content when I find the perfect partner, lose weight, get my dream job...Whoops, where did my life go?”
Many people define happiness as obtaining things—a good job, money, a house, or material items. People think that they’ll be happy if they acquire these things. Although these items may contribute to your contentment in the short term, they aren’t enough to give you the peace of mind that genuine happiness does.
Three happiness essentials
Dr. Martin Seligman, director of Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, believes happiness consists of three key parts: positive emotions / pleasure, engagement, and meaning. Or, as he elaborates, “experiencing and savouring pleasures, losing the self in engaging activities, and participating in meaningful activities.”
He adds, “Our recent research suggests that people reliably differ according to the type of life that they pursue and, further, that the most satisfied people are those who orient their pursuits toward all three [parts], with the greatest weight carried by engagement and meaning.”
People oriented to this positive way of living experience advantages in many areas. According to Seligman, “Happy people are healthier, more successful, and more socially engaged.”
Research from a 2005 study shows that benefits accompanying this positive state of mind include a higher rate of successful marriages and friendships, plus a stronger social support system.
Happy people have greater work outcomes, with a higher level of creativity, productivity, and income. They are also more likely to experience greater self-control and coping abilities, a healthier immune system, and a longer life.
Despite the positive impact that feeling happy can have on your life, some people put happiness on the back burner, as though it were a far-off dream. Happiness doesn’t have to be something you chase for some distant day. It’s something you have control over now.
In her research on sustainable happiness, Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California found that intentional behaviours—actions people take on a regular basis to manage their emotional lives—have a significant influence over happiness levels.
Lyubomirsky states, “Some types of behavioural activity, such as exercising regularly or trying to be kind to others, are associated with well-being, as are some types of cognitive activity (such as reframing situations in a more positive light or pausing to count your blessings) and some kinds of volitional activity (such as striving for important personal goals or devoting effort to meaningful causes).”
People use specific strategies to increase and maintain happiness levels. Researchers can reliably predict how happy a person is by knowing how frequently they adopt these strategies.
Direct attempts at feeling happier include simple expressive behaviours, such as smiling or acting happy. A strong correlation exists between direct expressions and experienced happiness. Recent studies reveal that acting out behaviours associated with particular emotions intensifies that emotion.
The point is to create intentional behaviour. Being proactive in lifting negative moods and creating meaning in your life is essential. You have control over the happiness you feel. Start with the strategies you feel most comfortable with and make them a part of your
“People aren’t genetically destined to experience a predetermined amount of happiness; volitional behaviours do matter; and finding happiness may be as simple as finding the right strategy,” says Lyubomirsky.