In my Sunday blog I talked about the decades of research done by Dr. Martin Seligman on the topic of happiness. Looking at both happiness and unhappiness he discovered many interesting factors that can serve as a guide to us. For instance, he found that unhappy people have three traits in common in their thinking. When facing a challenge they see it as PERMANENT (My life will never change), PERVASIVE (Everything in my life seems hopeless – it feels like my life is one crisis after another and I never get a break) and PERSONAL (I can’t do anything right – there is something lacking in me). They see themselves as a victim in life. With this mind set they continually draw more negative energy to them like a magnet. The Universe delivers to them what is foremost in their thinking.
Factors that Do Not Increase Happiness
Being wealthy is not the answer to happiness. Beyond a certain level of income (being able to pay your monthly bills, and save a little for a rainy day) additional money does not generate greater happiness. He cites the classic example of large lottery winners. One year after winning, their happiness index is the same as before their win. “How important money is to you, more than the money itself, influences your happiness.” Regardless of how much money you have if you constantly worry about spending any, regardless of the amount you have, it will never be enough and it doesn’t bring you happiness. Even Illness does not affect our happiness level unless we have multiple illnesses over a long period of time. Many people talk about wanting to live where the weather is mild year round. However, climate doesn’t have an effect on happiness either. For those who experience the cold, snowy filled winters they simply learn to adapt and learn to look forward to the beauty of the changing seasons.
Factors That Do Increases Happiness
A belief system that gives us hope for the future is important. With a sense of hope we make the most out of what we have been given and learn and grow in the process. A strong social network helps us stay connected and expands the world beyond ourselves. The most CRUCIAL aspect for achieving greater happiness according to the research is developing our own personal strengths of CHARACTER. Attributes such as love, loyalty, courage, integrity, fairness and spirituality are VERY important. They give us a feeling of confidence and optimism about life. When we face an obstacle and persevere to overcome it, we realize that we are a strong, competent individual. As Dr. Seligman says, “When life is easy is requires zero growth from us. A real life is one where we seek out and (positively) respond to the constant challenges in our life. A life of pleasure makes us a Spector not an Engager with life.”
Authentic happiness doesn’t happen quickly since it involves our daily choices of how we think, feel, and react. We can choose to see our cups as half empty and remain thirsty – the perpetual pessimist – or half full and grateful for the amount which will quench our thirst – the true optimist. The amount in the cup is the same but the perspective we bring to it determines our level of happiness. With free will we are in total control of our happiness level. We can choose to use it and view challenges in the frame of – ‘why not make tomorrow a better day by searching for the lessons of today’ or reduce our happiness level by thinking ‘why bother it won’t matter anyway.’
Over the next few days check yourself. Are you engaged in life, happy for another day to accomplish things and learn life lessons along the way? If not, you can choose to change your perspective and change your life. Greater happiness is really just a thought away.
Have a great few days!