Sunday, September 25, 2011

Happiness is just a state of mind

Wikipedia defines “Happiness” as a mental state of well-being characterized by positive emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.

happiness -3 Have you ever noticed that children are naturally happy.  And, a child’s laugh can make anyone, no matter what their age, laugh. 

What happens to that natural happiness as we age?  When did life become so serious that it could no longer be enjoyed?

The other day I was reading this article by Hannah Booth on some research performed in the United Kingdom. LSE professor Richard Layard and Dr. Anthony Seldon, aim to create positive social change. They have a movement called “Action for Happiness” with the core idea that we should try to create more happiness in our world.

The movement also developed a list of fifty activities that can help make positive changes in our lives. The activities include:
  • Do kind things for others
  • Look for the good in those around you
  • Get help if you are struggling
  • Help out someone in need
  • Try something new and different
  • Understand each other’s needs
  • Balance work and your social life
Ms. Booth decided to try some of the action steps to see how they would work in making her happier. The article reviews her attempts and the results.
  • Being Kind
Doing kind things for others strengthens our connection with them and builds trust ... particularly with strangers. These random acts of kindness lead to happier communities.  My daughter uses the term “pay it forward” (a great movie if you haven’t seen it).
  • Give Thanks
Write down every night at least three things you are grateful for that day.  By listing these things it can make you feel better almost immediately because they change our perception of how things went that day. Mark Williamson, the director at Action for Happiness, puts it this way. "It's not about ignoring bad things, but asking, did anything good happen today? You can usually find something."
  • Being Mindful
Relax a little and contemplate or meditate. Set aside time every day (as little as ten minutes) to just relax. Sit comfortably in a quiet area and focus on your breathing. Don’t try to shut out your thoughts, but just allow them to flow without focusing on anything except your breath. This can be especially powerful in a natural setting such as a park or your backyard. As you relax and let your thoughts flow, stress begins to dissipate from your body. After a few days, your perspective of life will change providing you with more energy and a sense of wellbeing.
  • Write a Letter
Write a letter thanking someone that you are grateful for. Once you have written the letter, read it to them. This experience will make both you and the person you are thankful for happy. According to Mr. Williamson, this effort also lets others know what they did that you value. And, if people know, then they are more likely to do it again. Ms. Booth was very uncomfortable initially reading the letter, but was amazed at the result ... immediate and later.
Happiness -2
The comment from Thoreau above is so true.  We cannot make ourselves happy just by wanting it to happen.  We have to first create a calm, loving and grateful environment.  Once this is achieved we will see the good that surrounds us.  

While reading this article, it brought to mind a couple of thoughts:
  1. The only handicap in life is a bad attitude.  Like happiness, attitude comes from within. 
  2. We create our own world by how we perceive it.  How I see events in my life decides how I will live my life.
I hope you have a happy day

Article Mentioned Above: Pursuit of Happiness
Action Steps: 50 Activities

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