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Got Happiness? 4 Recommendations From Positive Psychology

Got Happiness? 4 Recommendations From Positive Psychology

We all seek happiness. This is universal and without exception. No matter how we choose to strive for happiness, it is nonetheless our goal. Also universal seems to be our difficulty in finding happiness. Even within our crazy world of capitalism, psychologists are optimistic that happiness is attainable. Positive psychology at its foundation tells us to be mindful of our moment to moment experience, recognize the beauty of nature, and to be grateful for the positives in our lives. Research also supports the idea that happiness increases in response to optimism, religious faith, acts of generosity, giving back to your community, and hobbies that produce the state of flow (a state of complete engagement in which time seems to stop).

1. Get Social: Spend Time With Others

Very happy people spend a lot of time socializing and the least amount of time alone. They tend to be more extroverted and agreeable than unhappy people. They credit their happiness to the maintenance of social relationships. Happy people report strong social ties, especially to their close family.

We’re social animals. We have a need to belong and to relate to others. Social relatedness is essential for our well-being and can be the tool you need to go from sadness to happiness. People who maintain close relationships and strong social ties cope better with stress and bereavement, job loss, illness, and even rape. It makes sense then, that love is frequently mentioned as an ingredient missing in one’s life, causing happiness. All meaningful relationships (not just romantic relationships) increase life satisfaction and, according to many, are necessary if you want to be happy.

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2. Get in the Zone: The Flow

According to Martin Seligman, Ph.D., one measure of the good life is flow (a strong level of engagement. Flow is what happens when you’re completely in the zone: when you’re engaged, immersed, and absorbed in an activity. Flow is when time seems to stop. Flow can be achieved in different ways: performing a physical task like exercising, raking leaves, mowing the grass, dancing, solving a complex problem, negotiating a business deal, or writing a free eBook to show your appreciation to those that have supported you! Flow happens when we are using our strengths or doing something we’re good at or enjoy. There is a strong correlation between this kind of engagement and lasting levels of happiness.

3. Get Purpose: Volunteer

Happy people consistently want to be part of a cause bigger than themselves. Having a purpose in life creates an environment for happiness, meaning, and fulfillment. Volunteering, caring for your family, supporting a charity, or working for moral causes are all very rewarding. It feels great to know we’re making a difference and that what we do matters and has a lasting impact.

We experience meaning when we feel like who we are and what we do is in unity, when we feel connected with others, and when we engage in meaningful activities. An example of this would be the people that drove from all over the country to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy rebuild their homes. We increase our own happiness by connecting with something bigger than ourselves. Just trying to maximize wealth or material goods will not accomplish this.

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Martin Seligman Ph.D. says “The importance of eudemonia, or true happiness and well-being, is the result of an active life governed by intrinsic meaning, self-sacrifice, and self-improvement.”

We’ve already covered the effects of money on happiness, but giving some away has different results. Regardless of what you’re buying, if you spend more money on others instead of yourself, you’ll feel happier. In a research experiment, people were asked to consider spending time with a nonprofit (vs. not). Later they were asked to donate real money. Those who were first asked to think about spending time with the nonprofit ended up donating twice as much money (vs. the group who of people were not asked to imagine time spent with the nonprofit). Even more interestingly, this doubling effect was fueled by the belief that such volunteer work would make them happy. These findings suggest that once personal goals are aligned with creating meaning in the world, individuals become much, much happier.

We don’t need to make huge adjustments to our lives to feel like we’re making a difference. Little things like buying food for a homeless person or helping a neighbor clean up their yard can bring higher feelings of fulfillment and happiness. Kindness and fulfillment are linked. Random acts of kindness are great, but can get boring. Deeds that strengthen existing social ties have a higher return as you’re building upon an existing relationship.

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4. Find Meaning and Balance

A holistic and interconnected life is essential to an enduring level of happiness and meaning. One way to picture this is to think about where areas of your life overlap.

  • Work/Career/School
  • Home/Family
  • Community/Society
  • Self (Mind/Body/Spirit)

During your life these areas are not equal in size and importance. They tend to overlap, and changes in one area affect another. We see when we ignore our area of ‘self’, often other areas suffer, like work and family. We can’t focus on only one area and exclude others if we are to achieve optimal levels of happiness.

Thinking of our lives as containing overlapping areas creates a possibility of increasing our happiness. An example of this would be finding a way to create engagement and flow within your community leading to increased happiness and meaning at home, work, and in your interior life.

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Conclusion

If we stopped chasing happiness and slowed down long enough to experience life in the present moment, maybe we’d find what we seek. Learning to savor life, practice gratitude, and being mindful all help to relieve stress, increase pleasure, increase enjoyment, and increase happiness. Tending to our day-to-day life satisfaction not only puts us in a position to be happier, but to make others happy as well.

Featured photo credit: freeimages.com via freeimages.com

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Bob Dempsey

Psychology Major

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Last Updated on February 13, 2019

10 Things Happy People Do Differently

10 Things Happy People Do Differently

Think being happy is something that happens as a result of luck, circumstance, having money, etc.? Think again.

Happiness is a mindset. And if you’re looking to improve your ability to find happiness, then check out these 10 things happy people do differently.

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions. -Dalai Lama

1. Happy people find balance in their lives.

Folks who are happy have this in common: they’re content with what they have, and don’t waste a whole lot of time worrying and stressing over things they don’t. Unhappy people do the opposite: they spend too much time thinking about what they don’t have. Happy people lead balanced lives. This means they make time for all the things that are important to them, whether it’s family, friends, career, health, religion, etc.

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2. Happy people abide by the golden rule.

You know that saying you heard when you were a kid, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” Well, happy people truly embody this principle. They treat others with respect. They’re sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of other people. They’re compassionate. And they get treated this way (most of the time) in return.

3. Happy people don’t sweat the small stuff.

One of the biggest things happy people do differently compared to unhappy people is they let stuff go. Bad things happen to good people sometimes. Happy people realize this, are able to take things in stride, and move on. Unhappy people tend to dwell on minor inconveniences and issues, which can perpetuate feelings of sadness, guilt, resentment, greed, and anger.

4. Happy people take responsibility for their actions.

Happy people aren’t perfect, and they’re well aware of that. When they screw up, they admit it. They recognize their faults and work to improve on them. Unhappy people tend to blame others and always find an excuse why things aren’t going their way. Happy people, on the other hand, live by the mantra:

“There are two types of people in the world: those that do and those that make excuses why they don’t.”

5. Happy people surround themselves with other happy people.

happiness surrounding

    One defining characteristic of happy people is they tend to hang out with other happy people. Misery loves company, and unhappy people gravitate toward others who share their negative sentiments. If you’re struggling with a bout of sadness, depression, worry, or anger, spend more time with your happiest friends or family members. Chances are, you’ll find that their positive attitude rubs off on you.

    6. Happy people are honest with themselves and others.

    People who are happy often exhibit the virtues of honesty and trustworthiness. They would rather give you candid feedback, even when the truth hurts, and they expect the same in return. Happy people respect people who give them an honest opinion.

    7. Happy people show signs of happiness.

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    smile

      This one may sound obvious but it’s a key differentiator between happy and unhappy people. Think about your happiest friends. Chances are, the mental image you form is of them smiling, laughing, and appearing genuinely happy. On the flip side, those who aren’t happy tend to look the part. Their posture may be slouched and you may perceive a lack of confidence.

      8. Happy people are passionate.

      Another thing happy people have in common is their ability to find their passions in life and pursue those passions to the fullest. Happy people have found what they’re looking for, and they spend their time doing what they love.

      9. Happy people see challenges as opportunities.

      Folks who are happy accept challenges and use them as opportunities to learn and grow. They turn negatives into positives and make the best out of seemingly bad situations. They don’t dwell on things that are out of their control; rather, they seek solutions and creative ways of overcoming obstacles.

      10. Happy people live in the present.

      While unhappy people tend to dwell on the past and worry about the future, happy people live in the moment. They are grateful for “the now” and focus their efforts on living life to the fullest in the present. Their philosophy is:

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      There’s a reason it’s called “the present.” Because life is a gift.

      So if you’d like to bring a little more happiness into your life, think about the 10 principles above and how you can use them to make yourself better.

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