There is a new branch of psychology entitled, Positive Psychology. Rather than the more traditional study of the field that looks at unhappiness or dysfunction and attaches a label and recommended therapy to the circumstance, this branch of psychology does just the opposite. It examines happiness and recommends activities to optimize feelings of well being. It gives us specific findings from studies of human behavior that can help us learn to increase our own happiness level and experience the elusive butterfly of happiness as a permanent resident on our shoulder.
Supporting the Positive Psychology movement, a documentary entitled, ‘Happy,’ interviewed people in various countries of the world to determine where the greatest happiness or lack of happiness existed. Interestingly, Japan was listed as the country with the lowest level of happiness. Interviewing Japanese workers and their families it became apparent that due to the demanding expectation of their culture to work harder, longer and achieve more has left the Japanese people too physically and emotionally exhausted to enjoy life. Their faces told the story of their plight. It was shocking to hear that the Japanese are working themselves to death. Conversely, the random faces of the people in Denmark, Bhutan and even those living in the slum housing of India portrayed a completely different story. They were ranked much happier by comparison to the Japanese! Why?
Well, we are social creatures by nature. Time spent with family and friends gives us a sense of belonging and joy. We feel both valued and loved by the significant people in our lives. When we give and receive unconditional love, the rest of life is kept in perspective, our heart sings and our happiness soars.
Creating more happiness in our lives includes regular physical exercise, relaxation and variety in our daily activities – even changing the route we take to work or on a walk is important. Trying new experiences gets the synapses in our brain to function in new ways. Change expands our comfort zone and keeps us sharp, energetic and creates more self confidence.
As the Dalai Lama has said, compassionate regard for others, and making the world a better place also increases our own happiness index. It’s true, we make ourselves happier when we take the time to care for others.
Next, taking even 10 minutes a day in meditation or simply quiet time in contemplative thought allows our minds to relax and reflect on all that we have to be grateful for in the Universe. It helps us right ourselves with the world.
These findings from the studies on happiness are important factors to consider incorporating into our lives. They can help us create a happier more positive view on life and our own capabilities. When we engaged in these activities our brains release dopamine which is an important element to our overall mental and physical health. As a result, as the inevitable challenges surface in our lives we are stronger and better equipped to handle them.
Greater happiness is a learned skill. By personally applying some of these research findings on happiness life becomes the gift as intended and not a burden to be carried. The challenge is to expand our repertoire of happiness experiences and not simply do more of what we are presently doing. Just as the phrase implies, variety truly is the spice of life.
Have a great few days!