Does it matter if I’m Happy?
Does it matter if I’m happy? I mean is it necessary for my survival? Guess what, it is! Several scientists have found the people who feel happy live longer. They definitely live better as well. More specifically, studies have shown that, ‘feeling good can transform people for the better, making them more optimistic, resilient and socially connected. (Barbara L. Fredrickson). Twenty years of experiments by Alice Isen show that when people feel good, their thinking becomes more creative, integrative, flexible and open to information. Studies on the physical aspects show that positive emotions have a clear and consistent effect of undoing the cardiovascular repercussions of negative emotions.
At the outset it seems almost frivolous and downright selfish to chase after happiness. But stop for a moment and think of the far reaching benefits. If you are happier, you will be more pleasant to live with and work with. Your family will be happier and your home life will be more peaceful and fulfilling. Your colleagues will be happy too which will make work interactions smoother and more constructive. Happiness is contagious, people around you can’t help but notice and then they become happier too.
So is there anything I can do to be happy?
Try this as a First step – make a list of at least 10 things which make you happy. It could be a mixture of the simple little things which bring a smile to your face and are well within your reach, as well as the complex processes that you have been mulling about for a long time and which need some thought and planning. Your list might look something like this:
- A walk in the rain
- Getting home in time to kiss my children goodnight
- Reaching work before my boss gets there
- Playing football
- Popcorn and movies
- Volunteering for a social cause I believe in
- Fast cars
- Dressing stylishly
- Using my talents and energy to help others
- Soft jazz / Hard rock…….you get the drift!
Now, Second step – Take the time to go through this second step slowly and calmly. Take an honest look at your life and ask yourself;
1. Did I get to do at least one of the things on my Happy List at the last 24 hours? If you did, that’s great. If you didn’t, then Bingo, that could be the reason why you are vaguely disconnected and finding the day a drudge.
2. Did I get to do some of the things on my Happy List in the last 48 hours?
3. Did I get to do any of the things on my Happy List in the last week? If you answered no, then it’s no mystery why you have been feeling a bit weepy, almost came to blows with that biker who swerved in front of you, goofed on that decision at work, snapped at your kids, kicked your dog or have been downright grouchy for a long long time. Maybe you have even noticed people quickly crossing the street when they see you in the distance.
You owe it to yourself to be happy. You owe it to others too.
Positive emotions don’t just transform individuals. They may also transform groups of people, within communities and organizations. Community transformation becomes possible because each person’s positive emotion can resound through others. By creating chains of happy events that carry positive meaning for others, positive emotions can trigger upward spirals that transform communities into more cohesive, moral and harmonious social organizations.
The experts divide well-being into two different types: hedonic and eudaimonic. These are fancy words to describe happiness that comes from two different sources.
Hedonic well-being comes from an experience a person seeks out, that gives them pleasure. It’s having lots of positive experiences that come from, say, eating great food or smelling beautiful flowers.
Eudaimonic well-being is a kind of happiness that comes not from consuming something but from a sustained effort at working toward something bigger than you. In other words, it’s working toward a sense of meaning in your life or contributing to some kind of cause. Think of the happiness you see on the Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa’s face.
Both types of happiness contribute to our well being. So go ahead and make a practice of doing something which really makes you happy today and watch the ripple effect on your community. If you find you just can’ t seem to find happiness yourself, or you can’t shake off the ‘ blues,’ that dull unspecified low feeling, then get in touch with one of our counsellors at TalkItOver.
Csikszentmihalyi, M., Finding Flow, 2002.
Fredrickson BL, Cohn MA. Positive emotions. In: Barrett LF, editor. Handbook of Emotions.2008. p. 3e.
Isen, A. M. (1999a). Positive affect. In T. Dalgleish & M. Power (Eds.), The handbook of cognition and emotion (pp. 521–539). Sussex, England: