We chose to be happy or not. It is a choice and we can make that choice every moment, every hour and every day. Pleasure is sometimes mistaken for joy/happiness but there is a difference. Pleasure is short lived—happiness is lasting.
How do we get happy? How can we learn to make the choice for happiness over “unhappy” or even worse yet—feeling empty—neither happy or unhappy? When we think of “happy”, often times the Pharrell Williams song “Happy” comes to my mind – I can’t help but feel happy when I listen to it but that might not be an option for most of us every day, all day!
Lasting, true joy and happiness is what we experience or feel while seeking our potential to make our highest and greatest contribution. When we use our core values and strengths to align our goals with opportunities that allow us to “be our best selves”. We experience that sense of flow, bliss or joy which is what we call “happiness”. If we could have that feeling in our lives every day, then we couldn’t we envision ourselves as “winning” in our own lives and achieving that success that we all want?
So if we can truly chose happiness, the kind of joy that sticks with us and isn’t just fleeing or that “feel good for the moment” pleasure, what can we do to get more of it? After all, why wouldn’t someone want more happiness if only we knew HOW to get it?
Oprah said that after 25 years on TV and now on her Super Soul Sunday programs, that whenever she asks anyone what they truly want in life, it’s always the same answer: “to be happy”. When she questions them further, as to what that really means to them, again the responses are always: “to be seen, to be heard, and to know that what we do matters”. Oprah says that that answer is universal…no matter how famous, well-known, rich or powerful the person is—the answer is always that we want to know that what “we do makes a difference”.
Happiness researcher Shawn Achor, Harvard-trained researcher says there are two simple things we can do every day to boost happiness to new levels: physical exercise and meditation. Shawn says that even doing a few minutes of these mind and body exercise can bring about a positive change in our lives. He lists a few exercise that takes only a few minutes a day and believes that these two actionable steps can diminish depression, increase joy and create a more positive outlook. [Check out Shawn Achor’s book –“Before Happiness and The Happiness Advantage” to find out more secrets of happy people.]
The question is then, if we would rather be happy than “unhappy” why wouldn’t we all be happier if it was as easy as reading a book and then taking the magic steps? I love books and I think Shawn’s book is pretty awesome and easy to follow. There are tons of other great books that speak to us about being happy and the whole field of “Positive Psychology” lends itself to the happiness belief too. These books tell us about the many ways we can changes in our lives in a few, quick moments and experience profound changes in 21 days which is how long the author suggests is to make a habit stick:
- • 2 minute “thank you” for 21 days
- • journal 3 new things to be grateful for – an every morning practice
- • jot down 1 meaningful thing that happened in the past 24 hours–write down everything you remember about it so that you can experience it again and again every time you re-read it
So why not just spend that 2 minutes a day, write down the 3 new things to be grateful each day if that works and it helps us achieve what we truly want – which is just to be happier today than we were yesterday? I’ve asked myself that and actually did these exercise for 21 days and found them useful. If it were only that easy! It’s a start but no “magic formula” or secret sauce that will gets there alone. We have to do the work. I think we have to dig deeper and hold ourselves accountable too.
What I know for sure, is that the thing that makes me happiest is when I’m helping people, I’m learning, I’m focused on what’s important in my life and being with family. I do keep a gratitude journal and have for a long time. I believe that allows me to see how many good things I have in my life which in essence makes me happy but it didn’t create the happiness I feel. I learned that by focusing on my values, my strengths and how honoring them in my life allows me to live in peace and that creates the enduring happiness that we can tap into for the long haul.
These things do seem to be universally accepted as helpful paths to happiness:
- • Meditation – good for many reasons
- • Exercise releases endorphins and have been linked to feelings of happiness which is well documented in many research studies
- • Being of service to others
- • Living in integrity – honoring our core values, strengths and beliefs
In summary, there are many paths to happiness but it seems to me that each of us gets to choose how we want to get there and for some, it’s easier than others. Maybe the Happiness books are the answer, or listening to the “Happy” song but there is no ONE path. However, I believe that just being aware, setting the intention, that we have a choice to be happy now, today, tomorrow and always – can awaken us to focus on what motivates us to be happy and what different actions we take to search for happiness. What’s your path to happiness? What have you tried that works? When have you truly felt that “happiness” feeling that is lasting and enduring?
I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!