By Poonam Sharma
Are you truly happy? Is your life where you want it to be? Or
do you find yourself endlessly searching for ways to be happier,
but never quite finding anything that works for very long?
Researchers have long been exploring the conditions that lead
to people being happier. You may be surprised at their findings:
Happier people tend to have:
- --High self-esteem,
- --A sense of personal control,
- --An optimistic outlook, and comfort reaching out to others
- --A satisfying marriage or good network of friends
- --Work or fun activities that they enjoy and that allow
them to use their skills
- --A meaningful religious faith
- --Plenty of sleep and exercise
Happiness has little to do with:
- --Physical attractiveness
- --Age Gender
- --Education level
- --Whether or not you have children
- --Objective health
- --Geographic location
So, if you are contemplating getting that M.B.A., so you can
strike it rich, get a face lift, and move to Hawaii, please know
that there is absolutely no guarantee that you will be any happier!
In the U.S.A., we are immersed in a highly commercial society
that gives us the very strong impression that happiness is achieved
through the accumulation of money and ï¿½stuff.ï¿½ We are enticed to
believe that if we buy the latest name-brand outfit, stylish car,
or fancy house, weï¿½ll finally gain happiness and acceptance by others.
It is easy to forget that the primary goal of corporate America
is to sell goods and make money, not foster individual happiness.
Being financially well-off does not guarantee happiness. Once
your basic needs are met, research shows that money has little to
do with emotional well-being. Someone making $40,000 a year certainly
feels better than a person who is homeless, but increasing that
amount to a million dollars does not buy you much more happiness.
Consider these findings:
Americans are richer than they were 40 years ago, but report
no increase in happiness. Those who choose the pursuit of wealth
as their primary goal tend to have lower levels of well-being. Basically,
money hunger leaves you hungry in other areas of your life. The
research of economist Richard Easterlin has shown that as countries
grow wealthier, their people do not necessarily become happier.
Study after study has shown that the happiest people have positive
social relationships. Social relationships support health, optimal
cognitive functioning, and lower stress levels.
Unfortunately, our society seems to be moving in a direction
of increasing separation and loneliness. A recent sociological study
authored by Smith-Lovin found that 25% of people have no one to
confide in at all about important matters in their lives (up from
10% in 1984). In 1984, about 80% of people reported having a confidant
outside the immediate family; now that number has dropped to approximately
60%. More and more people rely primarily on their spouse and close
family members to meet their emotional needs. Without intimate social
ties, suffering increases substantially.
Ironically, in the current environment, it is not unusual for
people to give up social connection to pursue wealth. Job mobility,
separation of work and family life, and increasing demands to be
productive jeopardize our social worlds and our mental health.
FOR INCREASING HAPPINESS
Because our society does not naturally provide an environment
that promotes the things that really make a person happy, it becomes
necessary to work consciously on such a goal.
David Meyers (www.davidmeyers.org ), author of The Pursuit of
Happiness offers these research-based suggestions for making your
ï¿½1. Realize that enduring happiness doesn't come from financial
success. People adapt to changing circumstancesï¿½ even to wealth
or a disability. Thus wealth is like health: Its utter absence breeds
misery, but having it (or any circumstance we long for) doesn't
2. Take control of your time. Happy people feel in control of
their lives, often aided by mastering their use of time. It helps
to set goals and break them into daily aims. Although we often overestimate
how much we will accomplish in any given day (leaving us frustrated),
we generally underestimate how much we can accomplish in a year,
given just a little progress every day.
3. Act happy. We can sometimes act ourselves into a frame of
mind. Manipulated into a smiling expression, people feel better;
when they scowl, the whole world seems to scowl back. So put on
a happy face. Talk as if you feel positive self-esteem, are optimistic,
and are outgoing. Going through the motions can trigger the emotions.
4. Seek work and leisure that engages your skills. Happy people
often are in a zone called "flow"ï¿½absorbed in a task that
challenges them without overwhelming them. The most expensive forms
of leisure (sitting on a yacht) often provide less flow experience
than gardening, socializing, or craft work.
5. Join the "movement" movement. An avalanche of research
reveals that aerobic exercise not only promotes health and energy,
it also is an antidote for mild depression and anxiety. Sound minds
reside in sound bodies. Off your duffs, couch potatoes.
6. Give your body the sleep it wants. Happy people live active
vigorous lives yet reserve time for renewing sleep and solitude.
Many people suffer from sleep debt, with resulting fatigue, diminished
alertness, and gloomy moods.
7. Give priority to close relationships. Intimate friendships
with those who care deeply about you can help you weather difficult
times. Confiding is good for soul and body. Resolve to nurture your
closest relationships: to not take those closest to you for granted,
to display to them the sort of kindness that you display to others,
to affirm them, to play together and share together.
8. Focus beyond self. Reach out to those in need. Happiness increases
helpfulness (those who feel good do good). But doing good also makes
one feel good.
9. Be grateful. People who keep a gratitude journalï¿½who pause
each day to reflect on some positive aspect of their lives (their
health, friends, family, freedom, education, senses, natural surroundings,
and so on.) experience heightened well-being.
10. Nurture your spiritual self. For many people, faith provides
a support community, a reason to focus beyond self, and a sense
of purpose and hope. Study after study finds that actively religious
people are happier and that they cope better with crises.ï¿½
Source: Poonam Sharma, Ph.D. is a licensed
psychologist and life coach in San Antonio, Texas. Dr. Sharma
helps people improve their health, find balance in their lives,
and achieve their most important personal and professional goals.
Poonam Sharma, Ph.D. may be contacted at