It seems it would be hard to find anyone that would not agree that a great feat in life is to find happiness. Just like The Dalai Lama said, “The purpose of life is happiness.” Yet how exactly can happiness be defined when it is a special experience for each individual? Even the definition of happiness can vary from one source to another.
One could say happiness is finding someone special to love, singing to your dog in the morning, eating ice cream, or sharing a funny moment with someone.
Coca-Cola defines happiness as anything that can bring a smile to someone’s face.
Merriam-Webster defines happiness as a state of well-being and contentment or a pleasurable or satisfying experience.
Deepak Chopra feels the single most important ingredient to happiness is to make someone else feel happy.
Rabbi Ben P. David describes happiness as this deep-rooted feeling that we are blessed.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love, describes happiness as something an individual can create. She says, “People tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will descend like fine weather if you’re fortunate. But happiness is a result of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly.”
However happiness is defined, is it something that we are genetically born with? Or is it something that we have the power to choose?
A recent survey by Micoolfish.com indicates that people can indeed create their own happiness, as 51.2 percent of the participants agreed a person could create your own happiness. In the survey, 18.6 percent of the participants felt that the environment one lives in determines happiness. 18.6 percent of the survey takers also reported that one is born a happy person, while 11.6 percent of the participants said that happiness is due to external factors. With more than half of the people supporting the idea that an individual can create his or her own happiness, what can a person do to control it?
According to University of Penn psychologist Martin E. O. Seligman, there is now a burgeoning “positive psychology” movement that emphasizes people’s strengths and talents instead of their weaknesses. Seligman, one of the founders of positive psychology said that happiness is not the result of good genes or luck. Real, lasting happiness comes from focusing on one’s personal strengths rather than weaknesses- and working with them to improve all aspects of one’s life.
Selena Richardson, coach and editor of Creative Possibilities, believes that true happiness comes from within and you have a choice to be happy or not.
In an article written by Richardson, she said that most people don’t realize that you can choose feeling happy over feeling angry or upset about something. It’s not wrong to feel angry or upset but dwelling on it and letting the anger simmer for too long can have bad results. Choosing to be happy after you realize your anger has shown up (or even choosing to be calm) can be beneficial. You end up acknowledging your anger and moving on instead of harboring those emotions until there’s a flare up. We choose our feelings, no one can do that for us.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Laurie Schlussel agrees that even though it might be said that genetics and the environment can play a part in the amount of happiness one might feel, people do have the ability to create their own happiness through their own actions.
“Some us are born happy or are born in a happy place, some of us are not,” said Schlussel. “For some it may be more challenging than others to be happy. But by and large, I think people can take control of that and improve it. It’s not as easy as waking up one day and saying I’m going to be happy, but there are certain things one can do dedicating themselves to being happier.”
She gives five ways one can choose happiness.
A Good Support System
In life, everyone has to face struggles, Schlussel believes that with the right support system people can help lower their levels of stress, improve self-esteem, and increase their happiness.
Schlussel said, “A good healthy support system is the most important thing. Whether that’s your family or friends. Having somebody you can alk to about what’s on your mind. And they will be supportive enough to you, that you feel there is someone on your side.”
A Positive Outlook
According to scientists at the University College of London, people who are happy and have a positive outlook on life live longer. In a five-year study of about 4,000 people, revealed that people who had higher levels of contentment had a 35 percent lower risk of early death.
“Having a positive outlook is really important because it changes chemicals in the brain,” said Dr. Schlussel. ”It causes all kinds of good things to happen when you look at the glass half full, as opposed to half empty.
Exercise & Nutrition
Dr. Schlussel states that exercise can also trigger certain chemicals in the brain that makes you feel goo. She said that not only do people get an endorphin high, but exercise can also lead to improved self-esteem, improved confidence, and also decreases stress and depression.
“”Having good nutrition and exercise is really helpful for improving mood,” said Schlussel. “I know that antioxidants tend to improve mood also. You know fruits and vegetables and things like that are important to include as part of your diet. With the right diet, one can also improve their energy and happiness level.”
Find Things You Enjoy
While it can be a life-long pursuit to find what one wants to do with life, according to Schlussel, even in that pursuit it’s important to make time to find time to do things that you love or enjoy.
Dr. Schlussel said, “Whether it’s a sport, or reading a good book, or getting together with friends or people that you like. It’s going to be different for everybody, but it’s important to find something that you look forward to. It is also important to keep active and do things that you enjoy, because it can take you away from any stressors and give you relief, which can make you feel good.”
Doing Acts Of Kindness
In a study in Great Britain participants took a survey measuring life satisfaction. Research has shown that doing kind things for others makes one happy. 86 participants were assigned to one of three groups. One group was instructed to perform a daily act of kindness, one was told to do something new each day, and a third received no instructions. After 10 days the participants were asked to complete a life satisfaction survey. The group that practiced kindness did in fact receive a boost in happiness in comparison to the group that did not do anything.
According to Schlussel when doing these acts of kindness it’s easier to appreciate and be thankful for what you do have.
Whatever the case may be, the first step to being happy may be that you must actually have the intention to be happy, as stated in the book, The 9 Choices Of Happy People.
In the book it was stated that the intention to be happy is the first thing you have to choose in order to be happy.
“Intention is the active desire and commitment to be happy,” It’s the decision to consciously choose attitudes that lead to happiness over unhappiness”
– The 9 Choices of Happy People by Rick Foster and Greg Hicks
Likewise, National Certified Counselor Janine Cook said, “One has to choose happiness to be their mission. While there is no best practice, you have to take advantage of all opportunities life has to offer, and learn how to appreciate happiness. Not only choose to do what makes you happy and live with cheer, but also surround yourself with others that are happy. Once you decide to make living happier, then you will do more things that will increase the likelihood of attaining happiness.”