Let’s face it: happiness is elusive. Yet the more it escapes us the more lured we are by the seduction. As society moves towards an awakening of consciousness, the standards we holdourselves to become even more critical. Whenever we interact, professionally or personally, our attitude matters. Even on a small scale, the ripple effect of kindness and generosity has the power to change our world. Are there measured steps to increase happiness so our experiences become more joyful? Only when we explore our own individual happiness can we begin to create authentic and healing relationships to the communities around us
Happiness is relative. Every person on the planet has their own unique equilibrium that social scientists have determined comes from “three major sources: genes, events and values” (NYTimes, A Formula for Happiness). Genes make up about 50% of a person’s predisposition for happiness, but what about the remainder? Society falsely portrays big events like getting a promotion or buying the dream house as a sure fire way to lasting happiness. While the events make us content in the immediate, researchers have determined it is just that: temporary. For lasting happiness, “…choosing to pursue four basic values of faith, family, community, and work,” is the way to control contentment that is not hard-wired by our genes.
Work. An average human spends 90,000 lifetime hours making a living. The word “work” is charged with connotations of monotony, exhaustion, even dread, but researchers tell us our jobs have the capacity to improve our emotional wellbeing. It is imperative to acknowledge that pursuing work that aligns closely with values is a privilege; people living on modest paychecks to support themselves and/or multiple family members don’t usually have room for such pursuits. Finding joy in our livelihood should be a basic right for each person who wants it. “We need to fight for the policies and culture that will reverse troubling mobility trends. We need schools that serve children’s civil rights instead of adults’ job security. We need to encourage job creation for the most marginalized and declare war on barriers to entrepreneurship at all levels, from hedge funds to hedge trimming. And we need to revive our moral appreciation for the cultural elements of success.” (NYTimes, A Formula for Happiness)
Although we live in a society influenced by money, a study from Princeton University’s Center for Health and Well-being surveyed 450,000 US residents from 2008-2009 and definitively concluded: “high income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being.” Put simply: money does not buy happiness. Earning more income directly impacts our sense of security, but it does not improve emotional states of being.
Even though 50% of our genes predispose us to a certain level of happiness, scientists are researching neural pathways in our brains that can be changed. These modifications in negative thinking occur by treating the brain like a muscle that needs exercise. Try this simple tip from Happify: when a negative thought comes in, immediately think about something besides the negative thought(s) that require concentration (example: the order of songs on your favorite album, the ingredients to your favorite recipe). Continue this for a period of twenty minutes (like a meditation!) each time a negative thought arises. Over time, it will become easier to maintain presence without getting swept away in the though patterns of negativity.
We have the power to change the way we think! Let the amazing reality sink in. The biggest weapon we hold is the power to control our thoughts, the way we view the world, and people around us. Mindful observations into unique thought patterns will almost guarantee your life will become more grounded, authentic, and deeply satisfying. Who needs to go chasing happiness when it’s been inside of us all along?