I normally sleep well. Which means i sleep till almost 6:00 AM.
Today it was not so. I woke up a bit too early and as usual looked at messages and mails which had arrived during the night. Going through the messages i noticed that generally members of my family group were 'happy". That triggered a series of thoughts.
I tried to discuss with myself and then decided i must look for answers to questions like;
- What is happiness?
- Why is it important to be happy?
- What should we do to be happy?
- Can we measure happiness or can we undertake some reality check for self correction?
And i thought i should not only look for answers but also must write down. Then came the question why do people write? For some, it is a career; for others, a hobby. Some write because it helps them to sort out their feelings. Some have a story to tell. And some write because nothing in the world makes them happier.
For me it is mainly to communicate with people close to me generally, and specifically for giving a message to children in my family. I searched for answers to questions i had about happiness and got the same. The purpose for this piece also for children to understand the concept and prepare themselves to remain happy. Happiness/ unhappiness is contagious. If i find a child in my vicinity unhappy, it makes me unhappy. I am only being selfish when i copy - paste what i came across on the subject.
Here it goes:
What is happiness:
In her 2007 book The How of Happiness, positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky elaborates, describing happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”
Why practice happiness?
In addition to making us feel good, studies have found that happiness actually improves other aspects of our lives. Here is an overview of some of the good stuff that research has linked to happiness.
- Happiness is good for our health: Happy people are less likely to get sick, and they live longer.
- Happiness is good for our relationships: Happy people are more likely to get married and have fulfilling marriages, and they have more friends.
- Happy people make more money and are more productive at work.
- Happy people are more generous.
- Happy people cope better with stress and trauma.
- Happy people are more creative and are better able to see the big picture.
It is obvious we must do whatever it needs to remain happy.
How to cultivate happiness?
Here are some of the keys to happiness Lyubomirsky and other researchers have identified.
· Build relationships: Perhaps the dominant finding from happiness research is that social connections are key to happiness. Studies show that close relationships, including romantic relationships, are especially important, suggesting we should make time for those closest to us—people in whom we can confide and who’ll support us when we’re down.
· Give thanks: Research by Michael McCullough, Robert Emmons, Lyubomirsky, and others has revealed the power of simply counting our blessings on a regular basis. People who keep “gratitude journals” feel more optimism and greater satisfaction with their lives. And research shows that writing a “gratitude letter” to someone you’ve never properly thanked brings a major boost of happiness.
· Practice kindness: Research by Elizabeth Dunn and her colleagues finds that people report greater happiness when they spend money on others than when they spend it on themselves, even though they initially think the opposite would be true. Similarly, neuroscience research shows that when we do nice things for others, our brains light up in areas associated with pleasure and reward.
· Give up grudges: Groundbreaking studies by Everett Worthington, Michael McCullough, and their colleagues show that when we forgive those who have wronged us, we feel better about ourselves, experience more positive emotions, and feel closer to others.
· Get physical: Exercise isn’t just good for our bodies, it’s good for our minds. Studies show that regular physical activity increases happiness and self-esteem, reduces anxiety and stress, and can even lift symptoms of depression. “Exercise may very well be the most effective instant happiness booster of all activities,” writes Lyubomirsky in The How of Happiness.
· Get rest: Research has consistently linked lower sleep to lower happiness. What’s more, a study of more than 900 women, led by Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, found that getting just one more hour of sleep each night might have a greater effect on happiness than a $60,000 raise.
· Pay attention: Studies show that people who practice mindfulness—the moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and external circumstances—not only have stronger immune systems but are more likely to be happy and enjoy greater life satisfaction, and they are less likely to be hostile or anxious. Pioneering research by Richard Davidson, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and others has found that a basic eight-week mindfulness training program can significantly improve our physical and psychological well-being.
· Don’t focus on material wealth: After our basic needs our met, research suggests, more money doesn’t bring us more happiness—in fact, a study by Kahneman found that Americans’ happiness rose with their income only until they’d made roughly $75,000; after that, their happiness plateaued. And research by Richard Easterlin has found that in the long run, countries don’t become happier as they become wealthier. Perhaps that’s why, in general, people who prioritize material things over other values are much less happy, and comparing ourselves with people who have more is a particular source of unhappiness. It also suggests why more egalitarian countries consistently rank among the happiest in the world.
To these "hows", i have mine own. Every one of us may not get everything in life. Let us make sure we are not unhappy because some one else has got something we have not got. The last suggestion about material wealth is very difficult to practice, but if we can do that our lives and those of people around us will be more enjoyable and this world will be a better place to live.
There are tools to measure the state as the website provides. Even without such support we all know if we are happy or not. We need to be able to find out if we are unhappy, why are we unhappy? That can not be a perpetual state. We must develop ability to come out of such a state and win over the same. Remember unhappiness is a state of mind and no body other than ourselves can have control over our minds.