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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 June 19, 2019

6 Ways to Be a Successful Risk Taker and Take More Chances

6 Ways to Be a Successful Risk Taker and Take More Chances

I’ve stood on the edge of my own personal cliffs many times. Each time I jumped, something different happened. There were risks that started off great, but eventually faded. There were risks that left me falling until I hit the ground. There were risks that started slow, but built into massive successes.

Every risk is different, but every risk is the same. You need to have some fundamentals ready before you jump, but not too many.

It wouldn’t be a risk if you knew everything that was about to happen, would it? Here’re 6 ways to be a successful risk taker.

1. Understand That Failure Is Going to Happen a Lot

It’s part of life. Everything we do has failure attached to it. All successful people have stories of massive failure attached to them. Thinking that your risk is going to be pain free and run as smooth as silk is insane.

Expect some pain and failure. Actually, expect a lot of it. Expect the sleepless nights with crazy thoughts of insecurity that leave you trembling under the covers. It’s going to happen, no matter how positive you are about the risk you are about to take.

When failure hits, the only options are to keep going or quit. If you expect falling into a meadow of flowers and frolicking unicorns, then you’re going to immediately quit once you realize that getting to that meadow requires you to go through a rock filled cave filled with hungry bats.

2. Trust the Muse

Writing a story isn’t a big risk. It’s really just a risk on my time. So when I start writing a story, I’m scared it will be time wasted. Of course, it never really is. Even if the story doesn’t turn out fabulous, I still practiced.

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When I’ve taken risks in my life, the successful ones always seemed to happen when I followed the muse. Steven Pressfield describes the muse,

“The Muse demands depth. Shallow does not work for her. If we’re seeking her help, we can’t stay in the kiddie end. When we work, we have to go hard and go deep.”

The muse is a goddess who wants our attention and wants us to work on our passion.

If you’re taking a risk in anything, it’s assumed that there is some passion built up behind that risk. That passion, deep inside you, is the muse. Trust it, focus on it, listen to it.

The most successful articles and stories I write are the ones I’ve focused all my attention on. There were no interruptions during their creative development. I didn’t check my phone or go watch my Twitter feed. I was fully engaged in my work.

Trust the muse, focus your attention on your risk, let the ideas and path develop themselves, and leave the distractions at the side of the road.

3. Remember to Be Authentic

Taking a risk and then turning into something you’re not, is only going to lead to disaster. Whether you are risking a new relationship or new opportunity, you must be yourself throughout the entire process.

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How many times have you acted like you loved something just because the men or woman you just started going out with loved it?

For example, I’m not an office worker. I have an incredibly hard time working in a confined timeline (ie. 9-5). That’s why I write. I can do it whenever the mood strikes, I don’t have somebody breathing down my neck, telling me that I’m five minutes late, or missed a comma somewhere. I don’t have to walk on eggshells wondering if what I’m writing will get me fired or make me lose a promotion. I can just be myself, period.

One girlfriend didn’t understand that. She believed solely in the 9-5 motto, specifically something in human resources because that was a very stable job. I was scared for my future, but I stuck with the relationship because of my own insecurities and acted like I would do it to make her happy.

Here’s a tip: NEVER take away from your happiness to make somebody else satisfied (note I didn’t say happy).

Making somebody else happy will make you happy. Doing something to satisfy somebody is murder on your soul.

4. Don’t Take Any Risks While You’re Not Clearheaded

I’d been considering the risk for a couple weeks. It all sounded good. I was 22 and I could be rich in a couple of years. That’s what they were selling me, anyways.

One night, while at a house party with some friends, I found myself at a computer. A couple of my friends were standing nearby and asked me what I was doing. I told them I was considering starting my own business and it was only going to cost me $1,500.

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Of course, when a bunch of drunk people are surrounded by more drunk people, things get enthusiastic. It sounded like the best business venture in the world to everybody, including me. So I signed up and gave them my credit card number.

A few painful months and close to $4,000 dollars lost later, I quit the business. I was young and fell into the pyramid scheme trap. It was an expensive drunk decision.

Drinking heavily and making decisions has a proven track record of failure. So when you have something important to decide, don’t let your emotions take over your brain.

5. Fully Understand What You’re Risking

It was the start of my baseball comeback. I got a tryout with a professional scout and killed it. After the tryout, he talked to my girlfriend and myself, making sure we understood I would be gone for up to 6 months at a time. That strain on the relationship could be tough.

We understood. I left to play ball, chose to stay in the city I played in, and a year later we broke up. Not because of baseball, see point 3 above. Taking big risks can have massive impacts on everything in your life from relationships to money. Know what you’re risking before you take the risk.

If you believe the risk will be worth it or you have the support you need from your family, then go ahead and make the leap.

You can get more guidance on how to take calculated risks from this article: How to Take Calculated Risk to Achieve More and Become Successful

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6. Remember This Is Your One Shot Only

As far as we know officially, this is our one shot at life, so why not take some risks?

The top thing people are saddened by on their deathbeds are these regrets. They wish they did more, asked that girl in the coffee shop out, spoke out when they should have, or did what they were passionate about.

Don’t regret. Learn and experience. Live. Take the risks you believe in. Be yourself and make the world a better place.

Now go ahead, take that risk and be successful at it!

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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