“Most folks are about as happy as they make their minds up to be”
– Abraham Lincoln
If you’ve ever written a list of life goals, chances are “be happy” was on there somewhere. Pursuing happiness would appear to be an almost universal pastime; it’s something we all want, yet it remains something we struggle to find.
So, what is happiness?
Scientific research has identified three main areas of life that contribute most to a person’s happiness. They are:
- Values or spiritual life
By measuring individual levels of happiness in each of these areas, an impression of overall life satisfaction is formed and this impression provides a measure of happiness. However, happiness remains virtually impossible to define. The things that make you happy don’t necessarily make the next person happy, but the areas listed above suggest that happiness has less to do with wealth and material possessions than you may have imagined. In fact, studies of people who became hugely wealthy through lottery wins show that the majority confess to feeling unhappier in life only a few years after their win than they did before. The evidence gained from such studies suggests that happiness derived through external sources is short-lived and that true happiness comes from within.
Where can happiness be found?
Research in the field of psychology has concluded that only 10 per cent of what we believe to be happiness can be found in things such as wealth, material possessions, jobs and living conditions, and around 20 per cent is determined by genetics. The other 70 per cent is determined by our behavioural patterns and how we view life. This means it’s possible to be a “naturally” happy person but it also indicates that happiness is much more likely to be found by developing a positive outlook on life. Lasting happiness will be found in the things that matter most to you, the things that make you feel good about yourself, and by developing a lifestyle that allows you to devote time to those things.
Can everyone be happy?
With 70 per cent of happiness being determined by our view of life, we all have the potential to become happier. Genetics may determine your base level of happiness but you determine your outlook on life. Attitudes and habits can be changed. It takes a positive view to see the happiness you’re looking for in life and it takes a positive mental attitude to be happy.
Be optimistic – Happy people are optimists. They have a positive view of life and can see the good in every situation. Take a moment to allow yourself to be unreservedly optimistic; visualise yourself in a life where everything has gone your way and then write down what you see. If you can visualise it, you can make it real.
Be healthy – It’s always easier to feel happy when you feel healthy. Debilitating illness drains your energy and promotes feelings of self-pity. Regular exercise provides a great many well-documented health benefits and creates an overall sense of wellbeing.
Be grateful – Put your energy into enjoying what you have in life, rather than worrying about what you have not. Do it daily and you may be surprised by the great many positive things you already have in your life, things you’ve started to take for granted: things you’ve forgotten to feel grateful for.
Be helpful – Make a point of doing more for other people. Small acts of kindness such as visiting an elderly neighbour or holding a door open for someone go a long way towards developing a definite feel good factor.
Be kind – Be kind to yourself. Happy people focus on what they can do, not what they can’t. Adjust your focus to see your strengths and not your weaknesses and remember that happy people are optimistic people… be happy being you!
Written by Linda Purves