When asked what you want most in life for your kids or yourself, most people respond, “I want them to be happy” or “I want to be happy.”
Why Happiness Matters
Happiness is important for many reasons. It increases your sense of well-being, it improves your health, and you are more likely to take action on your goals and dreams. Happier people are more productive.
A plethora of research exists on the keys to happiness.
Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist and founder of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, studies the four areas of the brain, or “circuits,” that contribute to well-being and happiness. These neural circuits can be strengthened with practice. Exercising the following four skills will help build these circuits and promote greater well-being and happiness.
1. Our ability to maintain positive states or emotions. Noticing when you are having a positive experience and feeling that emotion in your body is a way to increase happiness. The psychologist Rick Hanson developed the “H.E.A.L.” process as a way to create new neural pathways. Taking time to pause and appreciate the good you have in your life is another simple practice. Noticing the sunset or the connection you have with another person. Research demonstrates that simple practices like the loving-kindness meditation rapidly alter this circuitry.
2. Resilience: our ability to recover from negative states. A key skill in resilience is how we think about an event. The more you can ask yourself, “What is the good that can come from this experience?” the more resilience you will experience and develop.
3. Our ability to focus and avoid a wandering mind. A study done by Harvard psychologists found that “a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.” The Eightfold Path of Buddhism uses meditation as a way to discipline the mind to achieve higher levels of consciousness. Meditation and mindfulness train the mind to focus attention. Remove distractions, like your phone, so you can focus on your work or the person in front of you. Studies show you will not only be more productive and effective but also happier.
4. Our ability to be generous. Being generous with acts of kindness contributes to our well-being and happiness. Sonja Lyubomirsky, a happiness researcher, recommends acts of kindness in her top three habits to cultivate happiness. And Brother David Steindl-Rast, founder of Gratefulness.org, says gratitude is the key to happiness.
“People who regularly practice appreciation or gratitude—who, for example, ‘count their blessings’ once a week over the course of one to twelve consecutive weeks or pen appreciation letters to people who’ve been kind and meaningful—become reliably happier and healthier, and remain happier for as long as six months after the experiment is over.” —Sonja Lyubomirsky, The Myths of Happiness
Discover how to be happy by developing your personal happiness habits:
Step 1: Identify one Happiness Habit that you will focus on for the next 30 days.
Step 2: Schedule this in your calendar to do every day. (Put some structure in place to keep track.)
Step 3: Increase your success rate by doing this with a friend or accountability buddy.
No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.
Here’s to you, living the best version of yourself.