What is happiness?
For years, philosophers, theologians, psychologists, and even economists have tried to unify a definition. Today, the most accepted definition is, “happiness is a state of well-being that encompasses living a good life, one with a sense of meaning and deep contentment” (Happiness Center, 2021). It does not encompass bouncing from one joy to the next as researchers find that achieving happiness typically involves times of considerable discomfort.
There are four important traits of happy people:
- Self-esteem: Happy people like themselves and people who like and accept themselves feel good about life in general.
- Optimism: Happy people are often filled with hope. Several studies (as cited in Myers, 2016) reveal that a pessimistic style of explaining bad events actually makes us more vulnerable to illness. Additionally, optimists also enjoy greater success. Rather than seeing setbacks as a sign of incompetence, they are viewed as a suggestion to find a new approach.
- Extroversion: Happy people are outgoing, more involved with others, having larger circles of friends, and are more engaged in social activities. This leads to experiencing more affection and enjoying greater social support.
- Personal Control: Happy people believe they have control over their destinies. University of Michigan’s researcher, Angus Campbell, commented that “having a strong sense of controlling one’s life is a more dependable predictor of positive feelings of well-being than any of the objective conditions of life we have considered” (as cited in Myers, 2016).
So, other than enjoying life, is happiness really important? YES!
Happiness involves feelings of positivity and fulfillment which have been found to benefit cardiovascular health, the immune system, inflammation levels, and blood pressure, among other things (Happiness Center, 2021). It is even linked to a longer lifespan as well as a higher quality of life and well-being.
Okay , we get it! We want to be happy, but how do we make that happen?
Social psychologists have proven that the actions we take leave remnants inside us. Each time we make a specific action, we end up amplifying the idea behind it. However, most people actually presume the reverse, that our traits and attitudes affect our behavior. While this is true in a very small fraction, it is actually our traits and attitudes that end up following our behavior. We can therefore act ourselves into a new way of thinking. The one thing most commonly suggested, and most likely not used, is to “Fake it until you make it.” Get up and start doing that very thing you know will bring some joy. Don’t let the idea that you “don’t feel like it” stop you. “Pretend self-esteem. Feign optimism. Simulate outgoingness.Going through the motions can trigger the emotions”(Myers, 2016). Once you are there, remember that “egularly indulging in small pleasures, getting absorbed in challenging activities, setting and meeting goals, maintaining close social ties, and finding purpose beyond oneself all increase life satisfaction”(Happiness Center, 2021).
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and work on happiness and you’ll quickly see all of its rewards!
- Myers, D. (2016). The Secrets of Happiness: Forget about money. Don’t fret about youth. Acting happy will make you happy, and more tips. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/199207/the-secrets-happiness
- Happiness Center(2021). What is Happiness? Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/happiness