Among the many reasons I love being an American is the well crafted choice of words and values which our forefathers used in Declaring our Independence and in defining our national identity to honor the inalienable rights of mankind. However before I go overboard with flag waving I want to focus on defining the “Pursuit of Happiness”.
While our forefathers may have been defining happiness in terms of living a good life, by most definitions however, happiness is a mental state of well-being. It is typically characterized by positive emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. So by using positive psychology and the scientific method, here are some answers to questions about what “happiness” is, and how we might pursue it.
Sonja Lyubomirsky author of The How of Happiness suggests that happiness is about 50% determined by genetics (our individual happiness set point) with only 10% determined by the things we tend to pursue in the name of happiness: such as wealth, possessions, occupation, lifestyle, and family relationships. We need to focus on the remaining 40% which is determined by habits, behaviors, and thought patterns. This is what we need to pursue if we want to be happy rather than the 10% related to wealth and possessions.
Lyubomirsky’s suggestions for “The Pursuit of Happiness “include the following 12 steps:
Practicing gratitude and positive thinking – (1) Expressing gratitude, (2) Cultivating optimism, and (3) Avoiding over thinking
Investing in Social Connections – (4) Practicing acts of kindness and (5) Nurturing social relationships
Managing Stress, Hardship, and Trauma: (6) Developing Strategies for Coping and (7) Learning to forgive
Living in the Present: (8) Increasing Flow experiences and (9) Savoring life’s joys (10) Committing to goals
Taking care of body and soul: (11) Practicing religion and spirituality, (12) Taking care of body through meditation, physical activity, and acting like a happy person
So are you wondering just how happy you really are?…………
Try taking the Life Satisfaction Scale by Ed Diener
Below are five statements that you may agree or disagree with. Using the 1 – 7 scale below, indicate your agreement with each item by placing the appropriate number on the line preceding that item. Please be open and honest in your responding.
7 – Strongly agree
6 – Agree
5 – Slightly agree
4 – Neither agree nor disagree
3 – Slightly disagree
2 – Disagree
1 – Strongly disagree
____ In most ways my life is close to my ideal.
____ The conditions of my life are excellent.
____ I am satisfied with my life.
____ So far I have gotten the important things I want in life.
____ If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing.
31 – 35 Extremely satisfied
26 – 30 Satisfied
21 – 25 Slightly satisfied
15 – 19 Slightly dissatisfied
10 – 14 Dissatisfied
5 – 9 Extremely dissatisfied
To understand life satisfaction scores, it is helpful to understand the factors that impact most people’s experience of life satisfaction. One of the most important influences on our happiness is our social relationships.
Another factor that influences life satisfaction is our work or studies, or our performance in an important role such as homemaker or grandparent. When we enjoy our work, whether it is paid or unpaid work, and we believe that it is meaningful and important, we will have higher life satisfaction.When a person has important goals, and is making adequate progress toward them, this can lead to life satisfaction.
A third factor that influences life satisfaction is personal – it is satisfaction with our self, and our religious or spiritual life.Clinical studies have shown repeatedly that people who have Faith or a belief in something outside themselves tend to have better mental health.
In sum,there is no one key to life satisfaction, but rather a recipe that includes a number of ingredients: social relationships, our performance in working towards our goals , goals which derive from our values and finally it is important to feel a connection to something larger than oneself.
With time and effort, people’s life satisfaction can move up when they are dissatisfied. People who have had a loss recover over time. People who have a dissatisfying relationship at work can make changes however when a person tends to be chronically dissatisfied, they should look within themselves and ask whether they need to develop more positive attitudes to life and the world and then if need be, get the support they need to make changes.