The Cult of Happiness
by Eric Santillan
Happiness is “in” today, more than at any other time in history. In the past, with death, disease and deities, it almost is a sin to be happy. People were told to sacrifice. Heroism (which usually involves dying) is rewarded with immortality in stories. But today, happiness seems to be more important than sacrifice. Work life balance has become very important. Years ago, the company you started working for, is the company you will retire in. Today, happiness is a main factor why people stay in jobs.
Studies conducted by positivity psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky (you don’t have to know how to pronounce that!) found some things happy people do differently in order to find happiness. This is taken from her book The How of Happiness:
1. The glass is always half-full. Happy people have the ability to produce their own optimism. No matter what and where they find themselves in, the happy person is able to see the glass as half full. Failure is but a step towards growth. They see the world as mystery–packed with endless moments to do better, learn lessons, find a way.
2. Avoid comparing yourself to others. Happy people just don’t compare themselves to others. This is because if you compare and you find yourself ‘worse’ or ‘better’ than the other person you’re comparing yourself to, you end with an unhealthy sense of inferiority or superiority–both detrimental to your over-all psychological health. The secret is this: if you feel you need to compare yourself to someone, compare yourself to an earlier version of yourself.
3. Be kind. It’s been scientifically proven that doing an act of kindness releases serotonin in your brain. Serotonin has a lot of health benefits: it helps people feel relaxed and contented, helps in sleep, and reduces anxiety. In fact, what most anti-depressants do is release more serotonin to your brain. They also found out that not only will you feel better, people watching the act of kindness will also feel better!
4. Have deep friendships. The happiest people on the planet are those who have deep, meaningful friendships. Studies have shown that people who are lonely die younger than those who aren’t.
5. Know how to cope. We all go through shitty moments. But what we do when we go through shit shapes our character and separates the men from the boys. It helps to have healthy strategies practiced, drilled, and in your system when shit does happen. That could range from putting off decisions until you’re well rested, to taking deep breaths, to practicing a rehearsed “way-out” sentence you could use when the shit hits the fan.
6. Forgive and Let Go. The bad thing about emotions is that our minds do not know the difference between past and present. So even if something happened decades ago, if you do not let it go and forgive, the emotion will continue to eat you up.
7. Be thankful. On the other hand, if you constantly recall good emotions, then you feel better immediately. The formula is genius: when you appreciate and value what you have, what you have appreciates in value. So being grateful for what you already have will give you a deeper sense of happiness. And that’s free– you don’t have to ADD anything to your life right now to feel that.
8. Savor life’s joys. We need to be able to pause to let joy catch up with us. Sometimes, the problem is not that we do not have roses; it is that we don’t have time to smell them. We don’t have time to let magic take its course and to let life happen to us. When we pause, we realize that the best things in life are really not things we need to buy, but experiences we only need to savor.
9. Commit to your goals. The problem with not having any clear commitment to anything is that you always have a way out. And having a way out makes you less wholehearted in what you’re doing. If you always have a Plan B on the side, Plan A is so easy to trash when the going gets tough. But in fact the best things happen when the going gets tough. You lose the information, the knowledge and the wisdom of life when we flake out.
10. Be spiritual. Understanding that there is something bigger than us is probably the best thing that can happen to anyone. Brent Blair says that even if you don’t believe in God, if you know that there are things we do not know, over which we do not have power, around which we agree we have no agency, then that is spirituality. In fact the best people in this world are people who feel that they’re doing work that’s bigger than they are.
11. Take care of your body. Your body is the vehicle for your mental energy (your focus), your emotional energy (your feelings), and your spiritual energy (your purpose). Exercise also raises our serotonin levels which has a direct correlation to happiness. Aside from that, it raises our feeling of accomplishment and self-worth.