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Practicing Happiness? Really?

Yes.  You can practice happiness.  There is actually a bit of science to back this up.  Only a very small percentage – less than 10% – of the variation in reports of contentment or happiness can be attributed to a difference in circumstances (imprisoned in a dungeon as opposed to living in Tahiti).  By and large, what determines happiness is your personality, along with the way you act and the way you think.

Okay, a basic personality is tough to change.  But your thoughts? your actions?  these are things you can work on, actively and deliberately.  You can learn happiness.  You know full well that rich people are not necessarily happy – in fact, they never seem to be happy, at least for long.  Nor are the bright and beautiful any happier or more fulfilled than the rest of us.  And yet we all know someone who is genuinely happy, despite the odds sometimes. So what’s the secret?

A positive outlook helps.  Optimism lowers the body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol – really!  A positive spin on life is associated with all sorts of other health benefits, too, including improved immune function and a reduced risk of chronic disease.  Some of the following may help in your quest for a more positive approach:

  • Learn to express your emotions and emotional reactions honestly.  You cannot manage anything that’s bothering you unless you look directly, and calmly, at it.
  • Take care of yourself. Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, get enough quality sleep.
  • See the cup as half full, not half empty.  Work on this one.
  • Take someone into your confidence.  Share with your spouse, a good friend, someone in the family you trust.
If happiness is the sum of your choices over your lifetime, consider structuring your life around the following:
  • Sincerely and deliberately appreciating the blessings you have.
  • Living in the present, in the moment.
  • Working on that positive outlook every day.
  • Developing a sense of purpose and meaning.
  • Spending time with family and friends.
Let’s take a look at the happiness challenge from the supercentenarian perspective.  Supercentenarians are men and women who live to be 110 or older.  This alone is an astonishing accomplishment.  What have they in common?  They share some characteristics worth considering.  Some 110+ lifestyle advice:
  • Stay social. Being part of a vital network of friends and family is crucial.   Volunteer. Participate.   Spend time with people who make you happy.  Join groups and clubs.  Offer your support to others.
  • Stay spiritual. Whether or not you are part of any organized faith, feeling connected with a higher purpose or with nature develops spirituality – a vital contributor to a meaningful life.
  • Stay active. Daily physical activity is important for all ages.  Garden. Walk.  Practice yoga.  Whatever your age, find a way to exercise.
  • Stay positive.  Here it is again.  Optimism is so important.  It helps you deal with stress, face uncertainty, cope with change.  Consider a meditation practice, daily prayer, regular self-reflection.

Next up: practice tips

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2 responses to “Practicing Happiness? Really?

  1. Nice post, this is what I feel I lack: ‘Developing a sense of purpose and meaning.’
    OK, I’ll go practice some happiness for a bit now!’

  2. Pingback: How to get Happy in Eight Easy Steps | Clarbojahn's Blog

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