Searching for Happiness in all the Wrong Places

Have you ever gone shopping, done a little retail therapy  to give yourself a ” happiness boost’?  When was the last time you ate a box of cookies or a pint of rocky road, or skipped a work project to watch Frankie and Grace marathon on television or look at Facebook in order to lift your spirits? Did that happiness last very long?

Chances are, you got a bit of instant gratification, which then gave way to malaise, and then possibly led to feelings of guilt and shame. “I can’t believe I did that, what is the matter with me?”

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. A 2016 Harris poll on happiness says less than 31% of Americans consider themselves truly happy, and most people look, every day, for instant gratification to fill the void.

Think of all the things you do during any given day to scratch that itch. You spend time looking at Instagram for a little dose of socially-driven dopamine, the happiness hormone. You play games on your phone, eat a sweet treat, or indulge in playing lotto online, but nothing seems to make a lasting difference…

 

You are searching for Happiness in all the wrong places.

 

Try to think about a time in your life that you felt really good. Accomplished. Empowered.

Perhaps it was you scored the winning touchdown. Maybe you published your first book. Had your art work accepted into a gallery or you won an award. Maybe it was a promotion at work, or a good grade on a difficult assignment, you made that sale that you have been after for weeks. It could be you volunteered at the local soup kitchen or  read to children at the library. This accomplishment gave you something to brag about. It brought you fond memories for weeks or years to come. It not only lifted your spirits…it elevated your entire life.

The momentary pleasures of ice cream and Facebook are fleeting, but that sense of accomplishment lasts forever.

Social psychologist Sonja Lyubormirsky, PhD, the author of The How of Happiness A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want defines happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.” And their findings are having a dramatic impact not just on the field of psychology, but also on the way many of us are cultivating happiness in our own lives.

At first glance, the notion of investigating happiness may not seem particularly revolutionary. But, in fact, the new interest in happiness represents a relatively contemporary shift in psychological focus. Historically, it seems that psychology has been more interested in fixing mental-health problems and illnesses than boosting actual happiness.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a professor of psychology at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif., a prominent figure in the study of happiness, and the author of numerous books, including  Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience said “Most people, when they ruminate about the cause of their wretchedness, become more wretched,” he says. “For most people, that’s just compounding their misery.”

The Positive Psychology movement focuses their attention to advancing the knowledge of what makes us feel satisfied, energized, hopeful — and happy.

What they’ve discovered is that some people are just born happier and are wired to stay that way, but happiness is also something we can practice and cultivate. Happiness hinges on our choices, attitudes and thoughts — and when we know more about how these choices, attitudes and thoughts affect the quality of our lives, we have a recipe for a more joyful, meaningful life.

5 keys to a happier life:

Notice what you are noticing

Andrew Shatté, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and coauthor of The Resilience Factor gave students 12 seconds to solve some puzzles what he did not tell them was there was no solution. He asked them after a few seconds how are you feeling…frustrated, angry, and stupid? “The point is, every one of these thoughts was wildly inaccurate, given the truth that the puzzles were unsolvable. We make mistakes in our thinking and we pay a price for them.” Pay attention to your instinctive emotional responses and begin consciously challenging the negative thoughts and limiting belief systems that underlie them. So many of our responses or reactions are based on faulty thinking.

Make a difference in someone’s life

Tim Kasser, a psychologist at Knox College , and the author of  The High Price of Materialism  considers well-being to depend on the fulfillment of four psychological needs: safety and security, competence, connection to other people, and autonomy or freedom. “Our research shows that when people have strong materialistic values, they tend to feel low satisfaction of those needs,” he says. “Fundamentally, they’ve hinged their sense of worth on what others think of them, so their [happiness] is always fragile and contingent.”

Therefore refocus your energy and actions on the people and experiences that matter most. Ask yourself how can I make a meaningful difference? Practice random acts of kindness.  Be considerate, loving and generous. Express gratitude for kindnesses you receive. Get involved with a cause that inspires you to share not just your money, but your time and expertise.

Focus on relationships and community

Ed Diener, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has conducted countless studies on the variables that contribute to happiness. His lab has explored many different cultures, including Amish, African tribes, Calcutta slum-dwellers, as well as American college students. According to his research the happiest people are in positive social relationships. Happy people cultivate friendships, marriage and companionship. Make time every day to connect with the important people in your life. Establish at least a weekly routine to interact with others in meaningful ways. Find what makes you come alive through meet ups, painting classes, book clubs, exercise or sports, learning opportunities, mentoring or volunteering, dancing, chorale groups.

  1. Creative Expression makes your happier and healthier.

According to research on art in chronic illnesses, making art can help people with illnesses to express themselves and their feelings about their illness. Art helps you process your emotions, increase self-awareness and change the way we think about an experience or challenge we are facing.

In addition art makes us feel good.  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has suggested that we can experience a state called flow when we’re working on an activity. We will lose our our sense of time, we may forget to even eat or that we are tired. Kurt Vonnegut once said that practicing any art ― no matter how badly ― makes the soul grow. “Make time for creative expression. It can be, journaling, coloring in a coloring book, scribbles and doodles, crafting or playing an instrument. But if you don’t consider yourself an “artist,” don’t worry, experimenting with a new dinner recipe to creating a new Pinterest board can give you that creative boost.

5. Gratitude

The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. In some ways gratitude encompasses all of these meanings. Through appreciation, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. Gratitude helps people connect to something greater than themselves, to other people, nature, or Infinite Intelligence. It has been known to actually improve your health, deal with adversity and build stronger relationships. Begin and end your day with I am so grateful for…

I am going deeper into some of these topics on my upcoming free webinar The Art of Health and Happiness. Register here. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-art-of-health-and-happiness-tickets-36608493991 

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Love Makes Your Life A Winning Adventure!

always based on love

 

Love Makes Your Life A Winning Adventure!

What does it mean  love makes your life a winning adventure? I received this email today and as I read it I cried. I hope these stories inspire you to think about  LOVE  and CONNECTIONS and what is really important in life. While you are reading them ask yourself the following questions: What do you value? What is your definition of success? Who do you want to spend your time with? Who do you need to thank? Who do you need to forgive? How can you be more loving? When was the last time you said I love you?

1.  Today, I interviewed my grandmother for part of a research paper I’m working on for my Psychology class.  When I asked her to define success in her own words, she said, “Success is when you look back at your life and the memories make you smile.”
 2. Today, I asked my mentor – a very successful business man in his 70s- what his top 3 tips are for success.  He smiled and said, “Read something no one else is reading, think something no one else is thinking, and do something no one else is doing.”
 3.   Today, after a 72 hour shift at the fire station, a woman ran up to meat the grocery store and gave me a hug.   When I tensed up, she realized I didn’t recognize her. She let go with tears of joy in her eyes and the most sincere smile and said, “On 9-11-2001,  you carried me out of the World Trade Center.”
 4.  Today, after I watched my dog get run over by a car, I sat on the side of the road holding him and crying.  And just before he died, he licked the tears off my face.
5.  Today, as my father, three brothers, and two sisters stood around my mother’s hospital bed, my mother uttered her last coherent words before she died. She simply said, “I feel so loved right now. We should have gotten together like this more often.”
 6. Today, I kissed my dad on the forehead as he passed away in a small hospital bed.   About 5 seconds after he passed, I realized it was the first time I had given him a kiss since I was a little boy.
 7. Today, in the cutest voice, my 8-year-old daughter asked me to start recycling.  I chuckled and asked, “Why?” She replied, “So you can help me save the planet.”   I chuckled again and asked, “And why do you want to save the planet?”  Because that’s where  I keep all my stuff,” she said.
 8. Today, when I witnessed a 27-year-old breast cancer patient laughing hysterically at her 2-year-old daughter’s antics,  I suddenly realized that I need to stop complaining about my life and start celebrating it again.
 9. Today, a boy in a wheelchair  saw me desperately struggling on crutches with my broken leg and offered to carry my backpack and books for me. He helped me all the  way across campus to my class and as he was leaving he said, “I hope you feel better soon.”
 10.  Today, I was feeling down because the results of a biopsy came back malignant.  When I got home, I opened an e-mail that said, “Thinking of you today.  If you need me, I’m a phone call away.”  It was from a high school friend I hadn’t seen in 10 years.
 11. Today, I was traveling in Kenya and I met a refugee from Zimbabwe. He said he hadn’t eaten anything in over 3 days and looked extremely skinny and unhealthy.  Then my friend offered him the rest of the sandwich he was eating. The first thing the man said  was, “We can share it.”
 As we know, the best sermons are lived, not preached. What is one step you are going to take today to make LOVE  your  winning adventure.?