I’ve been reading a lot lately about “the art of happiness.” How to be more, have more, and spread more.
What I’ve found is that happiness takes hard work!
Damn! I was really looking for the easy way out.
Aside from happiness actually taking work to achieve I have found a common theme in that everything we do revolves around creating or gaining more happiness. Either for ourselves or someone else.
Ben Tal-Shahar, a positive psychology teacher at Harvard and author of Happier addresses it best in his book. Ask yourself why you want more money, better relationships, more personal freedom, anything really. The root is always the same. That being we believe it will make us happier.
The funny thing about happiness is that we were born happy. So what the hell went wrong from the womb until now? Why don’t we have more of it?
WHAT IS HAPPINESS
Sorry to burst anyones bubble but POP!
Ok, a bit cheesy maybe but I’m laughing.
I can’t define it. Well, I can define it for myself but I cannot define it for you. Happiness is unique to the individual. It is ever evolving and constantly changing. I’d say it can be pretty tough to keep up with.
However, through multiple studies conducted with identical twins that have been separated at birth, scientists have been able to discover that 50% of our happiness is actually genetically determined. Crazy huh?
What that means is that we actually have a certain level of happiness that we can achieve.
So now you may be wondering where the heck is the other 50%?
It is said that roughly 10% of our happiness is determined by our circumstances. Those things like money, fame, looking good naked, prestige, the car we drive. You know, those things material things. Turns out they don’t have much to do with it.
Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychologist at the University of California and author of The How of Happiness tells us that the remaining 40% is determined by our behavior. Everyone should be jumping out of their seats right now with enthusiasm.
Because we CONTROL our behavior! That’s right. What Sonja is telling us is that we directly are responsible for 40% of our happiness. We get to determine how happy we will be. Genetics, circumstances, those may be out of our control at times but we can always control our behavior, the way we act, and the way we respond to everything that life throws at us.
For me being happy is falling in love with living (more on this later when we talk about strengths). To constantly be learning, trying new things, and spreading that message to others. Now some of you might be shrugging your shoulders. But that’s cool! What makes me happy probably is not what makes you happy.
Maybe your happiness is in being a father, mother, world traveler, solving problems, or building things. There really could be millions upon millions of things.
So how to we know what makes us happy and how to we get more of it?
Play To Your Strengths
I’ve been spending my time studying with Brian Johnson and the en*theos academy for optimal living. So far it’s blowing my mind but aside from that we have been talking about the concept of Happiness. A book called Authentic Happiness, by Martin Seligman was brought to my attention. Through this book I was led to authentichappiness.org and the strength test.
It’s a fun opportunity to get to know yourself a bit better and a good starting point.
Real quickly after taking the test it was revealed that I excel in the following areas.
- Bravery (valor)
- Vitality (zest, enthusiasm, vigor)
- Self control
The reason that these strengths are important to us is because we want to emphasis them in our lives. We want to experience and display these qualities more often. And from Sonja’s research as mentioned before, these are things we are directly in control of.
It’s very important to address weaknesses but save those for athletic competitions, well-timed personal challenges, and if they are directly effecting a strength of yours.
For every day activities, work, exercise, parenting, kicking it with friends, or kicking it with yourself focus the majority of your efforts playing to your strengths.
Imagine a day where all you do is things you suck at. How would that make you feel? You go to a job you hate, run for your workout because that’s what you think you are supposed to do, eat 6 times a day because that is the “golden rule,” or even worse neglect helping someone else out even though you know it’s what you are good at.
Now imagine a day in which you spend the entire time engaged in things you are awesome at! You go to a calling (the alternative to work) and spend the day participating in something you are passionate about. Maybe you even work from home because one of your strengths lies in parenting.
You go to the gym or even better yet, go outside and lift some weights, kick a soccer ball around, or just play as your exercise because that’s what you are good at and love to do.
You spend the evening in a good book because one of your strengths is the love of learning. Maybe you sit down with your partner to share what you’ve read because one of your strengths is in teaching or helping others.
Which one would bring you more happiness?
We tend to focus too much on what we hate, are not good at, what we don’t have, or what we THINK we need.
Spin that. Focus more on what you are grateful for, what you are good at, what you have, and what you REALLY need.
A Quick Note on Weaknesses
Weaknesses should not be totally neglected but what are some creative ways you can use your strengths to address some of your weaknesses?
Personally I have a hard time being idle, sitting still, and being in-doors for to long. Needless to say, sitting down to write sometimes can be very trying. I love it, but man it can be tough. So I’ve decided to take the laptop to the park everyday when I write. it gets be outdoors, some healthy vitamin D, I take mini breaks to do some pull-up on the playground, push-ups, or jog a bit. Totally awesome! I’m combining some strengths of mine to address some weaknesses.
DON’T WORRY – BE HAPPY
Yup, totally just dropped a Bobby McFarrin on you right there. Don’t think I won’t go there. I have no shame.
Going back to Sonja, she has developed 12 habits that we all can take part in now that clinically have been proven to increase our levels of happiness. I’m going to just list them here but if you are interested in getting the down and dirty I highly recommend picking up here book or visiting my homeboy Jacob Sokol over at sensophy.com He has a free download about the 12 things happy people do differently. It covers EVERYTHING and J-Sokol is one cool cat.
- Express gratitude
- Cultivate optimism
- Avoid over thinking and social comparisons
- Practicing acts of kindness
- Nurturing social relationships
- Developing strategies for coping
- Learning to forgive
- Increasing flow experiences
- Savoring life’s joys
- Committing to your goals
- Practicing either religion, spirituality, or both (there is a difference. I’m not very religious but I consider myself very spiritual)
- Taking care of yourself (exercise, nutrition, rest, meditation, actually acting happy :D)
I can see some of you nodding your heads now in agreement. Not really of course but you know what I mean.
Pretty obvious right? You’d think so but we tend to get so lost and wrapped up in doing things we THINK we “should be doing” and never get around to doing the things we NEED to be doing.
So here is my challenge to you.
Pick one thing, maybe from this list, maybe from your strength test I know you took ;), or maybe you have something else in mind. One thing that you know if you do it every single day it makes it virtually impossible for you to have a bad day. For me it is daily exercise.
Now also pick one thing you currently do now that you know typically causes you to have a shitty day.
Goal for the month is to do that one thing every day for 30 days and to stop doing that “other thing” for 30 days. Just pick one for each. No need to overwhelm ourselves. Small steps produce great rewards.
THE HAPPY ENDING
I just realized that the title above can really be perceived in a negative light, but since I am laughing really hard right now I will leave it be. Haha!
The cool thing about being happier ourselves is that it usually makes those around us happier as well. It’s like the plague, but in a good way.
Show your enthusiasm, joy, love, peace, vitality.
- Do work you love.
- Treasure your relationships.
- Pick others up when they are down.
- Challenge yourself to be happier.
There’s really no downside to it.
What are some of you going to do right now that will make you happier everyday? What will some of you stop doing right now that leads to rough ones? Share in the comments or email me if you are a bit shy.