Happiness is a choice. You can choose to be happy.
There's going to be stress in life,
but it's your choice whether you let it affect you or not.
"We think that if we have health and wealth they’re enough to be happy, but
actually happiness depends on the state of our minds. " Dali Lama
"When blood sugar levels are up, you feel energized. When they drop, energy
levels plummet.” -Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher and Latina and Greek
Scholar who lived - 1844 - 1900
"There is no true health without happiness." Robert Holden, author and founder
of the Happiness Project
Laughing Matters by Dr Mariana Funes
Some great quotes there about happiness - from the important reminder that permanent happiness comes not from external, material conditions but from an inner state of mind, that our inner state of mind, when it is stressed, raises our cortisol levels, which raise our sugar levels and so our happiness can be determined by our biology. And from that I know personally that if I am feeling down, it may have nothing to do with external circumstances, but simply a reflection of high blood glucose levels in the moment, which can be driven by stress or having eaten too many carbohydrate foods. So a further reminder, health and happiness are strongly linked.
Yet how often do we think we are miserable and unhappy because of circumstances “out there” rather than what’s happening inside us? And we protest that, “I can think of nothing that’s happened to me “out there” to make me feel this way.”
How happy are you right now?
Generally, how happy are you at this point in your life? In other words, as you go through each day are you generally of a happy disposition or are you serious and frowning, worried and concerned, harried and stressed, time flows smoothly, time is pressure?
And what is happiness? And how does it link to health?
The first definition I found for happiness simply stated, “A state of being happy.” Maybe so, but not happily helpful.
My search continued.
You probably think, why bother, do we need a formal definition of happiness? Surely we all know what it is and when we feel it. Isn’t it just a range of positive emotions such as joy, pride, contentment, and gratitude. Well no, they have meanings all of their own.
Researchers, who most definitely need as a starting point when researching the topic, need to begin with a definition. I’ve seen expressions such as “subjective well-being,” but that feels more like a description of satisfaction. In her 2007 book The How of Happiness, researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky describes happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”
I can get close to living with that – to me happiness is a tangible, inner feeling of feeling good, all’s well in my world (even if it isn’t, it feels so) there’s a good reason to be alive today. Ah, another word – happiness, a sense of energy and being alive. It may be a calm inner energy or it may be one of such ecstasy, one feels fit to overflowing, fit to burst.
Sometimes, alas, we find it easier to describe unhappiness and I wonder at times if that is because we somehow tell ourselves we don’t deserve to be happy all the time, it’s in our culture. And of course with unhappiness we notice a clearer link to poor health – when we think our life lacks happiness (and joy and all those other positive words) our thoughts create feelings so we not only are thinking to ourselves that happiness is lacking, that thought can begin to make us feel unhappy – and word we then introduce are words like feeling depressed, anxious, down, upset, miserable, low, stressed.
The more we think of those emotional states, the more we will stay stuck in them. Until we make a conscious effort to consciously choose different thoughts that trigger, if not immediately a state of happiness, for that is perhaps asking too much, then something that takes us in that direction.
Sometimes, things happen and the journey from unhappiness ato happiness can be quite quick.
Other times, we may need to work at it.
We become aware we are in the low, unhappy state.
We decide to do something about it – we inform ourselves that it is feasible to come out of the negative state, that we have the power and courage to do so, and perhaps we create some affirmations to help us eg I am releasing the negative moods, I look toward a happier time.
As we try out the affirmation, we begin to feel satisfied, and trust that we can let go of the negativity, and that with effort we can make it.
Satisfaction breeds a feeling of hopefulness, of possibility, of optimism, and our intention to succeed becomes stronger.
We may spend some time doing some core work around forgiving people around whom we still carry some resentment or negativity. We may for once really face our demons, we really practice acceptance. And from that stronger base, feeling more harmonious and in balance, with increased understanding, we find our own lives carrying more reason, meaning and purpose.
Now if we were to plot that little journey from negativity to not just positivity but to feeling more positive, optimistic and even joyous, it may go something like this, starting on the bottom step:-
We feel more joyous, happy, merry, pleased
Life has more meaning and purpose
We feel more in harmony and balance with life
The higher into positivity we go, the more we release the negativity
We trust there is more
With experience and small-step successes, we feel satisfied
We take action, we empower ourselves to begin the change
We see it is possible and feasible to change
We feel and are low, unhappy – but decide not to stay stuck down here.
But what if we do stay stuck? Sometimes, especially when feeling depressed, and perhaps suffering the side effects of anti-depressant and other medications which can make us feel low, when we are down in the depths feeling as if someone has thrown a wet duvet over us, we can feel paralysed, unable to even think positively let alone take one tiny step forward.
Negative emotional states, especially if chronic and persist over some time, can negatively affect our immune system and increase inflammation in the body leading to a multitude of diseases and conditions.
But just as our negative thoughts and feelings can trigger negative health, ill-ness, dis-ease, so too do the principles of Positive Psychology tell us that overcoming these negative states will increase the likelihood of positive health, well-ness, and ease.
No meaning Meaning
No purpose Purpose
Happiness, Health and Nutrition
Of course, we could also reflect on what we have been eating; have we been having too many processed foods, refined carbohydrates, cakes and chocolates for if so, chances are they have physiologically triggered the unhappy, miserable, down state. So cleaning up our eating act, cutting out cakes, pastries, carbs, chocolates and sweets, take-aways and fast foods for a few weeks would be a good experiment to do.
Happiness and health have been linked for many years and not just in sayings such as --'laughter is the best medicine.' Research now tell us that happiness and health are connected, and that one's level of happiness really can impact the level of one's health. See for example, the book Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman or learn about the Happiness Project by Robert Holden.
Positive emotions it has been found are correlated with longevity and linked by research to marital satisfaction. Healthy relationships are linked to strong immunity and, thus, overall health and so the ‘upward spiral’ toward better health and well-being continues.
So can you cultivate happiness?
I still maintain the words of Abraham Lincoln have stood the test of time i.e. “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”
I’ve known friends go on about how unhappy they are and they stay stuck in a story of doom and gloom, ruminating over how awful life is and somehow they have a belief that that is where they must stay. “Life is as it is.” Yes, that’s true. AND you can change it. Sometimes it can do some good to step into the unhappiness and learn from it and turn it around. Face it, embrace it, replace it. Start telling yourself a different story. Especially the one about it just being all about your genes.
It’s not all just in the genes
Researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky concludes that about 50 percent of happiness is determined by our genes, 10 percent by our life circumstance, and 40 percent depends on our daily activities ie how we have to (?) or choose to spend our time. But genes are not fixed, despite what we’ve been told; we can influence our genes. Our culture, the way we eat, cook, explore and interact with others can influence our genes, and so, changing your health may be as "simple" as changing your thoughts and beliefs. "Contrary to what many people are being led to believe, a lot of emphasis placed on genes determining human behavior is nothing but theory and doctrine," writes Konstantin Erikseni . "We are free to make decisions that impact our lives and those of others. … Our beliefs can change our biology. We have the power to heal ourselves, increase our feelings of self-worth and improve our emotional state." You actually have a tremendous amount of control over how your genetic traits are expressed—from how you think to what you eat and the environment you live in.
Surround yourself with happy people – people who aspire and inspire. Build positive relationships. Especially people who can support and challenge you.
Be grateful – actually give thanks or as the old song says, Count Your Blessings One by One. Keep a gratitude diary – every day write three things you are grateful for in your life, three people in your life that day you were grateful for, three things about yourself you were grateful for that day.
As the car bumper stickers says, practise random acts of kindness just because you can, not because you want fame, fortune, or recognition. Just be kind. Let nature repay you for neuroscience research shows that when we do nice things for others, our brains light up in areas associated with pleasure and reward.
Quit with the grudges, resentments and judgements. They are of a negative vibration and the world doesn’t need you to be adding to its daily dose of humankind’s negativity. Imagine an ocean of water and each time you judge or grudge, you are adding a droplet of poisonous, coloured water into it. Then imagine we all do that. It wouldn’t take long for that ocean to change colour and go from clean and healthy to pure toxicity.
Forgive – yourself and others. Lack of forgiveness is simply holding on to those darn resentments and judgements again.
Sleep and sleep well – quality sleep for 7 – 9 hours. Research has consistently linked lower sleep to lower happiness.
Relax - Do you have a hobby, routine, or activity that relaxes you? Not being a couch potato but genuinely doing something that dissolves muscle aches, lessens tension headaches, slows your breathing – eg swimming, meditating, painting, drawing, listening to music, being out in nature.
Destress – find your best and healthiest ways to destress; You may be a big toughie but our bodies are not biologically built to handle what we now throw at it: long commutes, putting up with know0it-alls, constant noise, bright lights, worries over jobs, relationships and money, poor nutrition, media overload, sloth and physical inactivity.
Get moving – enjoy physical activity – the gym, swimming, walking, gardening, sex, smiling. Studies show that regular physical activity increases happiness and self-esteem, reduces anxiety and stress, and can even lift symptoms of depression.
Remember Sunday – it used to mean the day of rest. Most of us these days just let one day blindly blend into another. Take time out to enjoy, to have fun to connect with people, to see a comedy or some musical, or something that is for YOUR pleasure. Taking kids out for a treat for them is acceptable so long as you realise that is not the same a taking specific time out for you.
Get spiritual – not religious, unless that is your way. What does spirituality have to do with happiness? Spiritual living means more optimism, compassion, and gratitude, and nothing else is as highly correlated with happiness. The social support provided by a spiritual community or group is unmatched, by most, if not all other modern institutions. Genuine adherents of spiritual practices and connection report increased feelings of gratitude, compassion, and optimism and claim to find more purpose and meaning in life.
Practice mindfulness—the moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and external circumstances—it can lead to stronger immune systems, increased happiness and greater life satisfaction. Many health authorities in the UK now offer free mindfulness classes.
Less is more. Remember – don’t chase after the money, honey. More money doesn’t bring us more happiness—countries don’t become happier either as they become wealthier.
Accept yourself – people who compare themselves to the mythical Jones’s are much less happy.
Aim for excellence - Do you settle for mediocrity or expect excellence? We achieve happiness when we improve our strengths faster than our weaknesses, focusing on those areas where we naturally excel.
Be a passion person – build in time in your life for your passions, the things that turn you on, the things that float your boat, what makes your heart sing.
Be a radical happiness seeker – do an inventory of all that steals your joy and happiness, be ruthlessly honest, then decide to let that go.
To be a radical happiness finder, apply the following to all areas of your life:-
Find and be open to frequent opportunities to enter into a state of flow or ease with life; don’t push water upstream.
Identify and find regular opportunities to use, and develop your strengths and passions.
Constantly be open to new opportunities to renew and develop social networks and connections.
Know your values and beliefs and ensure all your attitudes, thinking, and actions are in alignment with them. If what you are doing or thinking is not taking you in the right direction, quit it!
Life is low, dull, negative
My affirming mind
Happiness in life is a must. It is essential to my health and well-being, and it is my true nature.
I am happiest when I can be and am myself. It isn’t about outward laughing and being jovial. It is my inner state.
When I am happy, and mindful, I make good choices that help me be more consistently happy . Happiness enables me to be the best me possible, to function to my highest capacity, to bring my best self, and greatest me, to each moment of every day.
Happiness is contagious. When I am happy, it rubs off on others.
I make my happiness a priority. Even if my doctor magically infuses me with happiness, I still need to know how to maintain it.
Today, I choose happiness.
Whatever the outer circumstances of my life, whether they go up or down, are good then bad, my inner world governed by my thoughts need not be fickle.
I choose happiness.
I don’t need others or material resources to make me happy. If circumstances seem fearful, I focus on Love, I choose happiness.
I surrender to my Higher Power all thoughts of fear, lack, doubt, and negativity and any other thoughts or emotions that would have me head in a downward spiral.
I choose happiness and as I live in the emotion and vibration of happiness, circumstances change. As like attracts like, I attract others who match my vibration of happiness.
Despite what is happening in my world, I remember to choose happiness – to smile, to give thanks, to praise, to inspire, to nurture.
I choose happiness.
I choose thoughts of happiness and connect to inner emotions of how it feels to be happy.
Just for this moment
I do not anger,
I do not worry.
I am thankful
I work diligently.
I am kind to others.