Happiness is something we have to work at…
“Most folks are about as happy as they make their minds up to be” said Abraham Lincoln. When I think about our Civil War President, I don’t think about a person who had a big smile on his face. I see a man who is fraught with the pain of the nation he was trying to preserve. Who would have thought that this man would have the time to consider mental well-being.
Maybe he was, in fact, the perfect person to advocate for happiness. I’m thinking that Mr. Lincoln knew that happiness was not something he could order and it would show up on the steps of the White House like a pizza. For most of us, happiness is something we have to work at. We have to “make up our mind” to be happy. Somewhere along the way Lincoln had learned that he and he alone, had the ability regulate his emotions.
Having the desire-to-be happy comes in handy!
So here’s the question. How do we, us, you, me, decide to feel happy? There isn’t a step by step happiness guide, and even if there were, no two of us are alike. But there are top researchers and psychologists who study positive psychology, they can offer us easy ways to infuse our days with contentment and feelings of wellness.
It shouldn’t feel like work to elevate our feelings of happiness, but having that desire-to-be happy comes in handy. Motivation can help you to transform your cup to being more of a half-full cup type. “A lot of people think you can’t control happiness – you either have it or you don’t – which is totally not true,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, the author of The How of Happiness. “It’s like controlling your health. First you need to believe that you can do it before you take those first steps.”
What truly brings you pleasure? When was the last time you even thought about it? Do you have a list of those things? “A key to steering your own happiness is reflecting on the things that make you come alive,” says Barbara Fredrickson, a social psychologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the author of Positivity. Perhaps it’s been so long since you’ve done some of those activities, that you’ve all but forgotten how much pleasure they brought you. That carefree state of just letting go.
Focus on the enjoyable stuff.
Prioritizing that feeling should be as important as avoiding a snake pit. In a world where getting “stuff done” is celebrated, it’s easy to forget incorporating happiness and play. The answer, then is to focus on enjoyable stuff, not just the “have-to-do’s.” Robert Biswas-Diener, happiness researcher, founder and managing director of the Consulting Firm Positive Acorn in Milwaukie, Organ, says “Do you ever hear devoted church attendees say, ‘Can we reschedule church because something came up?’ You need to have that church mentality about whatever it is that gives you pleasure.” Protect that time as being scared from the people who need your time. “Announce to everyone that it’s your time to recharge your batteries”, adds Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Manage from the Inside Out.
On those days when you barely have time to think, much less breathe, recall something that makes you happy. Science suggests that a full, genuine grin-one that involves facial muscles around the eyes sparks a change in brain activity related to a good mood.
The science of Happiness and Well-being has many facets. None of the concepts are hard, nor are they a surprise. And for me, they are all worthy of my time and energy incorporating them into my life.
What’s on your list of happy? Here are some of mine:
- Big fluffy Clouds, dark clouds, rain clouds
- Smell of the earth after rain
- First snow flakes
- Pine trees, pine cones, and the smell of pine
- Mountains, Mountains covered in pine
- Baby goats
- Baby bunnies
- Baby donkeys
- Baby … anything
- Puppies, kitties (they’re babies)
- Laughing till it hurts
- Art stores, paint, pencils, paper, canvas
- Book stores, book sales
- Back-to-school sales
- Being a wife, a mother, a grandmother
- Being a friend.
Barbara Ann Kipfer author of 14,000 things to be happy about, made a list of 14,000 things that makes her happy. What’s on your list?
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