Happiness is definitely the way to a fulfilling and wonderful life. We all want to be happy and yet for so many of us, happiness is an elusive and difficult state to attain. And sometimes, no matter how hard we try, happiness seems to slip further away from our grasp.
US psychologist Barbara Fredrickson recently shed light on the evolutionary role of the positive emotions of happiness and gratitude. Through her many studies she has found that collectively, the positive emotions help us to create and seize opportunities. For example she says, “enthusiasm” helps us to gather energy to achieve our goals and “interest” helps us to focus our energy on solving problems or finding solutions to challenging tasks.
She believes by having positive emotions, our ancestors were able to achieve their goals, move forward and prosper in their lives.
The “Nun Study”
Interestingly, happiness is also linked to other multiple positive outcomes.
One of the most famous studies is that of a group of 180 nuns who all entered the same convent in the 1920’s. As part of their training the young novices were asked to write an autobiography of their childhoods.
Obviously some were clearly happier than others and incredibly, these happy nuns outlived their unhappy sisters by eight years.
This is such a clear example of the role of happiness in our lives. We gain a longer, more peaceful life.
Happiness Equals to Success!
Another long term 30 year study confirming this involved college students. Students who smiled in their college photos were compared to those who didn’t smile. Just this evidence of smiling in photos had an improved outcome, these people went on to have better health,higher incomes and happier marriages more than 30 years later!
As amazing as these results may sound, they do make sense.If someone is happy and they smile at you, they send a message they are approachable and friendly but conversely if they scowl, you are more likely to stay away from them.
Happiness – Huge Effect On Relationships
All these little moments will open or close down windows of opportunity.
Just imagine how all these micro opportunities and micro interactions play out in the modern day workplace……
They can have a huge effect on relationships with fellow workers as well as customers and clients.
Unhappiness can cost business and firms a lot of money! We have all had experiences of meeting people through business or everyday interactions where they give off an air of happiness or unhappiness and we can choose to interact or not.
Way to Happiness
So yes, there does seem to be validity in thinking ” happiness is the way’ But, this raises another question: “are we able to become happier“? What if there is “no way to happiness“, are we stuck where we are?
This is a great question because it makes us question our way of thinking.
- Can we be happy?
- How could we be happier?
- What steps can we take?
Perhaps we should not approach the search for happiness directly. Happiness finds us in little ways, just a searching for the perfect partner is not always the surest way of falling in love. Often our partners appear through a set of circumstances.
The UK government Office of Science has developed a set of guidelines called “The 5 Ways to Wellbeing”
These 5 ways are evidence based positive ways and positive actions that people from all walks of life can try out in their day to day lives. They are designed to suggest ideas for good living and through good living, finding happiness. Experiment with them in your lives. Mix things up. Have a go. Do something differently….. And think seriously about what does bring you happiness and concentrate on those aspects that do.
What does bring you HAPPINESS?
CONNECT- connect with the people around you, with friends, family, fellow workers, the person in the local shop, neighbors. These people are the cornerstones of your everyday life and by investing time in them, happy interactions will appear.
BE ACTIVE-Stop sitting and go for a walk, a run, play a game , go bush walking or dance as if no one is watching !! Exercising gets the good endorphins flowing and are guaranteed to make you feel good.
TAKE NOTICE-be curious, look at the world around you and be in the moment. See the amazing miracle of life around you. Actively comment on the unusual . Be mindful of what really matters to you and before long you will find life has many happy moments.
KEEP LEARNING– Try something new. Set a challenge, take up those singing lessons you always wanted to try and enjoy the achievement. Learning a new skill or polishing a new one will give you a lovely sense of accomplishment and an inner glow.
GIVE– pay a compliment to a stranger and see the happy smile in return. Do something nice for a friend. Pay it forward by buying a coffee for the person behind you. SMILE. Volunteer your time for a cause you like. Seeing yourself and your happiness as linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding.
See what happens and let us know of your happiness adventures….. we would love to hear from you!
For further reading,