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Do You Have What It Takes to Be Happy?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Yesterday was family day and my Ate Tess was asking me to help her out with her presentation with this essay. Before I could help her I said I'd have to read it over...I did and I'm like WOW. I LOVE this. So I thought I'd share :) I agree completely with what she says, especially the part about replacing negative with positive thoughts and embracing our challenges instead of fearing them. That's the way to live!

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Do You Have What It Takes to Be Happy?
By Stacey Colino

If you add up money, beauty, fame, and admiration, you’ve got the formula for a lifetime of bliss, right? Wrong. The truth is, your financial status, external circumstances, and life events account for no more than 15 percent of your happiness quotient, studies show. What elements do make a difference? Surprisingly simple internal factors such as having healthy self-esteem, a sense of optimism and hope, gratifying relationships, and meaning and purpose in your life have the most influence, according to recent studies on what researchers call “subjective well-being”.


If that sounds like a tall order, here’s the good news: Even if they don’t come naturally, many of the attitudes and thought patterns that influence happiness can be cultivated, which means you can boost your capacity for happiness today—and in the future. “Studies with twins reveal that happiness is somewhat like a person’s cholesterol level—it’s genetically influenced, but it’s also influenced by some factors that are under our control”, explains David Myers, Ph.D., a social psychologist at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, and author of The Pursuit of Happiness (Harper Collins, 1993). In other words, while your genetically determined temperament has a fairly strong influence on your happiness quotient, you can nudge it upward with the attitudes and approaches you bring to your life. To develop a sunnier disposition, use the simple strategies outlined in this essay, and you’ll be on your way to a richer, more satisfying life, starting now!


Develop an upbeat attitude. No, you don’t want to become a Pollyanna who overlooks problems and thinks everything is peachy even when it isn’t. But you do want to consciously focus on what’s positive in your life because this can engender a sense of optimism and hope. And research has found that happy people are brimming with these key ingredients. In one study at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, happy subjects were more hopeful about their wishes than their less sanguine peers. It’s not that their wishes came true more often, but the happy people expected them to come true. How? They do it by expecting to have a joyful summer every day, not just when they’re on vacation, by indentifying negative thoughts and countering them with positive or neutral ones, and by embracing challenges (such as parasailing or public speaking) instead of fearing them. Such people realize that challenges will help them grow.


Hang out with your favourite people. It’s as simple as this: Carving out as much time as you can to spend with people you value gives you a sense of connection, as well as a support system for when your luck heads south. Research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that people who are consistently very happy have stronger romantic and social relationships than unhappy people. “We’re social creatures by nature,” says Louis H. Janda, an associate professor of psychology at Old Dominion a sense of belonging and lets you engage in mutually enjoyable activities, all of which can buffer you from stress.”


Infuse your life with a sense of purpose. If you want to be happy, it is important to give your life meaning: Research at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro found that having a sense of purpose is a significant predictor of happiness and life satisfaction. To create a vision of what’s meaningful to you, ask yourself, “What activities make me feel excited or enthusiastic? What do I want to be remembered for? What matters most to me?” If you can articulate these desires to yourself, you can set specific goals to help you fulfill them. If you realize that your strongest desire is to become an influential teacher and role model, for example, you might set a goal of volunteering to help disadvantaged kids or of going back to school to get your teacher degree.


Count your blessings, not your burdens. When people keep a gratitude journal, in which they jot down a daily list of what they appreciate in their lives, they experience a heightened sense of well-being, according to research at the University of California, Davis, and the University of Miami in Florida. “There’s a natural tendency to take things for granted, but if you stop and think of all the ways you are blessed, it doesn’t take long for the mind to use that as the new baseline for perceiving how happy you are,” explains study co-author Michael E. McCullough, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology and religious studies at the University of Miami.


Recharge your energy and your spirits. Sure, exercise can work wonders in keeping your mood buoyant, but so can getting some simple R&R. “Happy people lead active, vigorous lives yet reserve time for restorative sleep and solitude,” Myers says. Short-change yourself of the shut-eye you need, and it’s hard to enjoy much of anything when you’re exhausted. In a recent study involving more than nine hundred women, researchers assessed how happy women were based on their daily activities and found that sleep quality had a substantial influence over how much the women enjoyed life, even when they engaged in plenty of pleasurable activities like sex and socializing.


Put on a happy face! If you act as if you’re on cloud nine—by smiling with your mouth and eyes, speaking in a cheerful voice and walking confidently—going through the motions can trigger the actual emotion. There’s even science to prove it: A study at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, New Jersey, found that when people forced themselves to smile or laugh, they experienced a substantial boost in mood afterward.


So start off by acting as if you’re walking on the sunny side of the street—even if it’s cloudy. Changes are, you’ll begin to feel a little happier after just a few steps!

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