The Science of Happiness
Do you ever ask yourself, what exactly is happiness? What does it mean?
People have asked themselves this same question for years, but did you know there’s an actual science behind happiness? I think my first introduction to “happiness” as a science was when I read the book, “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. I love that book so much, I try to keep two copies on hand at all times. One for me and one to give away to someone who I think needs it.
Some misconceptions about Happiness and Positive Thinking
1. If you believe in the science of happiness and positive thinking, you’ll feel good all the time!
I believe that having a positive attitude and consciously looking for the good in life and being happy has more to do with keeping an even mood. You are not striving for a constant “high”, because what goes up must come down. And who wants to be down? Are you with me? Look for meaning in your life and focus on being grateful for the abundance you have. Find purpose and meaning and you’ll likely find happiness.
2. Being Rich will make you happy
I won’t deny that having more money, would take the strain off of many people. However, there is a reason for that saying, “More money, more problems.” I have blogged about this story before, but I’ll relay it again in case you haven’t read about it. When I was in my 20’s and living in Los Angeles, I worked in Beverly Hills. I enjoyed my job and like working for the family that owned the business. One man in particular no one could get along with. I mean no one. You would be hard pressed to find someone who felt warmly toward him. He was rich, arrogant and not nice to most of the people who worked there. He was, however, nice to me. Another employee asked me if I was sleeping with him, because they’d never seen him be nice to anyone. I was not sleeping with him, but it tells you about the kind of person he was that everyone thought the only reason he’d be nice to someone was because he was sleeping with them.
Anyway, I was very homesick one day and feeling a little weepy and down and he called me into his office and said, “Sherry, you can have all the money in the world and be the most miserable person in the world.” He confessed he was always looking for happiness and never finding it. He was very wealthy, lived in Bel Air owned a $1 million yacht, had a beautiful wife who seemd to love him, 2 great kids and yet, he was cheating on his wife with a woman we worked with and cheating on her with 3 other women. I’m not inventing this or making suppositions. He told me this.
So, while he had more money and wealth than you can imagine, by his own admission, he was miserable.
Money does not buy you happiness.
3. Happiness is not the end or your final desitnation
No one says, “Once I’m happy, I’ll be done.” Happiness is not your destination, but more of a philosophy and way of life. You don’t work toward happiness like you work toward a certain rank in your company and then finally “arrive.” I admit that I believe I won the genetic lottery as far as happiness goes. I am adaptable and have been happy throughout my life. They say there is a gene for happiness and I believe I have that genetic makeup. I’m just naturally a positive and optimistic person. I don’t really “get” people who don’t see the good side of life, which is one reason I’m writing this blog post today. I want to help others find the contentment I feel no matter where they are in life.
For people who are not naturally positive and happy, there are things you can do to help yourself achieve it.
– Keep a Gratitude Journal – Write down a list of things you are grateful for every day
– Pray – Ask God to help you achieve a happier existence
– Read books on positive thinking
Now that we’ve covered that, it’s time to answer the question: What IS Happiness?
Research tells us happiness is a combination of how satisfied you are with your life (you purpose, your family, your friends) and how good you feel on a day-to-day basis. Keep in mind that both of these things are relatively stable. Life throws you curveballs and it changes. Your mood will fluctuate; however, genuine happiness —that is, our life changes, and our mood fluctuates, but our general happiness is more genetically determined than anything else.
As I stated above, the good news for that is you can do things to offset any genetic predisposition for being unhappy and with training, you can retrain your brain to be positive and happy.
Your brain is an amazing machine. You just have to choose to use it for good. Be consistent with your efforts at finding the good, being grateful and finding happiness in life. It’s not a one-shot deal. Just as you cannot exercise and eat right for a few days, then go back to shoveling junk in your mouth and not exercising and expect a healthy, fit body, you must be consistent with feeding your brain the right thoughts and exercising it toward positivity and happiness.
You alone have the ability to control how you feel. Only you. No one else should ever have that kind of control over you. Know that with consistent practice, you can form habits for a more abundant, satisfying and ultimately fulfilling life.
Have a blessed day.