The other night I watched a fantastic movie entitled 'Happy' which definitely caused me to stop, ponder and examine - for the thousandth time in my life! - the question of what brings lasting happiness. (To watch yourself search Netflix or Amazon Prime Instant Video.)
It does seem that most of us put "being happy" very high on the list of goals for our lives,
yet many people and cultures around the world are far from realizing this dream.
One of the many ideas that stood out while watching was how a sense of community, good friendships and connection with family tends to bring a stronger sense of happiness than does success, acclaim and how much money one has acquired. After all our basic needs are met, having more does not bring as much additional happiness as one might first assume. Stuff doesn't make us happy, the thrill of a new acquisition is fleeting. As the maker of the film, Roko Belic shares, "People who prioritize "extrinsic" values for money, power and fame are less likely to be happy than people who prioritize "intrinsic" values for compassion, cooperation and wanting to make the world a better place."
Traveling to 14 countries over 6 years to make the movie, interviewing people of many cultures and speaking with leaders in the fields of positive psychology and the scientific study of happiness, this is what Roko learned and incorporated into the story:
1. You Can Become Happier
There are a number of ways we can increase our happiness. The formula for happiness is not the same for everyone, but all of us can make changes to becomes healthier, more fulfilled and happier.
2. Your Happiness is Good For You
Happy people are more likely to have better relationships and have happier children. Happy people do better at school and at work and make more money. They are more creative, more resilient in the face of hardship, healthier and they even live longer.
3. Your Happiness is Good for the World
Happiness is contagious. As you become happier, those around you have a higher likelihood of becoming happier. Happy people are less likely to cheat someone else, commit a crime or pollute the environment. They are more likely to help a stranger in need and stand up for justice and human rights. Happy people create a happy world.
There are things you can do to become happier:
1. Get in the Flow
Flow is a state of being where you are totally immersed in an activity. You forget about the worries of everyday life and you are completely focused on the experience of the moment. Flow usually occurs while engaging in a hobby like gardening, painting, golfing or surfing, but it can also happen at work. People who get into flow on a regular basis are happier than those who don't. Recognize your flow-inducing hobbies and prioritize them.
2. Integrate Exercise into Your Day
We have a chemical in our brain called dopamine that is essential for feelings of pleasure and happiness. It is part of a system of transmitters and receptors that deteriorates as we get older. The best way to maintain the health of our dopamine systems is through physical aerobic exercise.
3. Spend time with Friends and Family
Ed Diener, a leading researcher in positive psychology, told me that every happy person he studied in over 30 years had strong relationships. Not all were outgoing or necessarily very social, but all had someone they loved and someone who loved them back.
4. Focus on Intrinsic Goals
People who prioritize "extrinsic" values for money, power and fame are less likely to be happy than people who prioritize "intrinsic" values for compassion, cooperation and wanting to make the world a better place.
5. Be a Part of Something that Offers a Sense of Meaning and Purpose
Happy people often feel they are part of something bigger than themselves. Whether it's a community service organization, a charity or a spiritual affiliation, participating in a group or identifying a context for your life can increase your happiness.
6. Act with Compassion
Being kind and helping others, even strangers, makes you happier.
7. Practice Gratitude
Writing a letter to thank someone can boost your happiness for days afterwards. The amazing part is, it works even if you don't send the letter! If you do send the letter the positive impact is even greater. The simple act of expressing your gratitude makes you happier. Make a habit of thanking people who help you, and write a list once a week of things you are grateful for.
Roka Belic thoughts via the Maria Shiver Blog
Have you seen the movie? What makes your days happier?