How To Be Happy
60 Minutes did a segment on Happiness.
Here is a 12 minute excerpt, followed by some highlights from this episode and some additional perspectives on how to be happy.
Denmark tops the list of the happiest country in the world. The segment takes a look at what makes Danes so happy. As one of the researchers puts it, this may be due to the Danes modest expectations. It may also have to do with the fact that college students get paid to go to school, a dad gets paid for 6 months to stay home and care for his child, free healthcare for all, subsidized child care, and 6 weeks vacation. As one of the Danish college students interviewed for the segment “we are secured from the day we are born.” The average tax rate though is about 50%.Some Danish college students state what is important to them, work they enjoy, time with their families, low stress, and one of the students offers advice to Americans “don’t depend too much on the American Dream, you might get disappointed.” I don’t agree with the notion not to attempt something because you could fail.U.S. comes in as the 23rd happiest country. Dont worry we come in ahead of Iraq.Tal Ben Shahar a professor and researcher at Harvard University teaches the “most popular course on campus; “Positive Psychology”. He is also the author of the recently released “Happier”. He suggests Americans would not be willing to pay a 50% tax rate for the lifestyle the Danes have. Americans have higher expectations a “want it all” mentality focused on material things, which does not make one happier. He loosely defines happy as the intersection between doing something that has meaning to us and which gives us pleasure.Ben Shahar offers 5 easy steps to happiness:
- Simplify-Do less rather than more. More is not necessarily better.
- Exercising as little as three times per week can have an impact as powerful as some psychiatric drugs.
- Keep in mind that happiness is mostly dependent on our state of mind, not on our status or the state of our bank account. Do you see the glass half empty or half full?
- Accept your painful emotions such as sadness or frustration. They are a normal part of life.
- Appreciate what you have. When you appreciate the good in your life, the good appreciates, you get more of it.
Shahar goes on to say that the number one predictor of well-being is close friendships and relationships in general.
60 Minutes is not the only media outlet covering happiness as of late.
Good Morning America and 20/20 both did stories just last month on Happiness. GMA Interviewed UC Riverside Professor and Sonja Lyubomirsky; author of the recently released “The How of Happiness.”
Her research shows “If we observe genuinely happy people, we shall find that they do not just sit around being contented. They make things happen. They pursue new understandings, seek new achievements, and control their thoughts and feelings. In sum, our intentional, effortful activities have a powerful effect on how happy we are, over and above the effects of our set points and the circumstances in which we find oursselves.” Based on her findings she offers 12 scientific strategies for happiness. ABC News has an excerpt of her book available.
This academic and scientific research on happiness stems from Positive Psychology, founded by Dr. Martin Seligman; Director of the Positive Psychology Center at The University of Pennsylvania. On their Authentic Happiness Website there are free questionaires which will measure different degrees of happiness, character, and other related areas.
I have great respect for the area of positive psychology. It serves as part of the foundation for the Life Coaching that I am trained in. While the academic research and findings are quite interesting, this look at Happiness would not be complete without mentioning “The Art Of The Happiness” by The Dalai Lama and Dr. Howard Cutler. The book is a dialogue between the two authors. While not free of modern science and research, the core premises of this book are steeped in Buddhism.
These premises are:
- The purpose of life is happiness.
- Happiness is determined more by the state of one’s mind than by one’s external conditions, circumstances, or events—at least once one’s basic survival needs are met.
- Happiness can be achieved through the systematic training of our hearts and minds, through reshaping our attitudes and outlook.
- The key to happiness is in our own hands.
Gretchen Rubin is a New York City based author an fellow blogger, currently working on a book called “ The Happiness Project”. It states on her blog that it will be “a memoir about the year I spent test-driving every principle, tip, theory, and scientific study I could find, whether from Aristotle or St. Therese or Martin Seligman or Oprah. THE HAPPINESS PROJECT will gather these rules for living and report on what works and what doesn’t. On this daily blog, I recount some of my adventures and insights as I grapple with the challenge of being happier.”
So while there are a number of different perspectives and the subject of happiness is on a lot of people’s minds, with varying conclusions. One take-away for me is that so much of it has to do with our own attitude. The way that we choose to see things. The glass half-full or half-empty perspective. Do you need to have what you want, or want what you already have to be happy?