What creates authentic happiness? It may not be what you think!
The Happiness Factor
Happiness is not a vague notion but can be understood as being 50% genetic; 10% based on circumstances like a new car, whether we are rich or poor, generally healthy or unhealthy; a full 40% of our sense of happiness is dependent upon our lifestyle and choices. The good news? Only 50% of our happiness is actually genetically predetermined. The other half of the equation is entirely up to us – meaning we can create happiness in our choices and life activities.
Many of us have been programmed to believe that material things will make us lastingly happy (money, going shopping, etc). The reality is that the ability to purchase things and have the status associated with money falls into the 10% category of life’s circumstances. And 10% isn’t all that much. True, lasting happiness is an “inside-out” experience.
It's All About Relationships
It has been said that our number one health epidemic is social isolation. More women are living alone now than ever before. Having meaningful social connections is essential. You can actually boost happiness in your life by investing in nurturing, emotionally healthy social relationships. Value your friendships and spend time with the quality people in your life.
Practice Acts of Kindness
Being kind to others is not only good for the recipient -- but for you as well. According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness, kindness is like a natural tonic relieving guilt, distress and stress. And it’s contagious. When you are kind to others it may likely jumpstart a domino effect of positive social consequences as people literally pay that kindness forward to someone else.
Staying Happy while Coping with Problems
There are two ways to remain positive while dealing with life’s curve balls. Engage in problem-focused coping, which involves action strategies and engaging in small steps to actually solve the issue at hand. Feel like you are doing something, even one small thing towards resolving or ameliorating the situation. The other way to cope is focused on emotions. This involves things like accepting rather than denying the situation and keeping yourself balanced through activities which help you including meditation, music and social support.
Learn to Forgive
It has been said that hatred is like a poison pill which you ingest...and only cause damage to yourself. Think of forgiveness as something you do for yourself. Research shows that forgiving-types of people are less likely to be depressed, anxious or hold hostile feelings and are more likely to be agreeable, serene, healthier -- the kind of person who has strong connections with others.
The surest path to finding your own sense of personal happiness and balance is built upon an awareness of future possibilities and the extreme truth of the present moment. Many ancient traditions know that the cultivation of mindfulness is an essential element of happiness. How can you be mindful and present when life demands have you running from one thing to the next? For one, take delight in the senses. Wake up in the morning with full, cleansing breaths and welcome the day with gratitude. Sit and eat. Really taste your food. Take a breath and focus for just three seconds before answering your phone. Try those three things and see what a difference it makes.
Create Your own set of 'Flow' Experiences
According to Mihily Csikszentmihalyi, being in a state of "flow", the completely focused motivation and attention required for a given activity, is an indicator as important as reporting feelings of happiness. This, he says, is what “makes for excellence in life.” Flow activities are those where you are challenged to a level that requires your full attention, where you enjoy the process and where you likely lose track of time. Skiing, cooking, gardening, hiking and singing are just a few examples of flow activities.
Know Where You are Headed
People who strive for something significant to them, who actively set goals and have aspirations, report being happier. They create a roadmap for themselves and therefore avoid feeling lost. What we’ve found is that the process of working towards a goal is as important as that goals' attainment. Create some short term goals to get started, allowing them to add structure and an anchor to your daily experience -- and see how you feel.
About the Author: Barbara Waxman is a life and executive coach and author. The purpose of her work is to help adults at midlife and better to harness their personal and professional goals. Barbara is a regular guest on Leeza Gibbon’s Hollywood Confidential radio program, and has been featured on CNBC.com, Newsday, SmartMoney.com (WSJ) and U.S. News & World Report. She is a gerontologist and certified coach through the Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara. She is a member of both the International Coach Federation and GILD (Global Institute for Leadership Development) Coaching Faculty. She is the special editor of How to Love Your Retirement, the most comprehensive collection of real advice from retirees transitioning to, and thriving in, retirement.
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