Is happiness really as simple as a warm puppy? Stopping to smell the flowers? Or as materialistic as a winning lottery ticket? There have been scores of philosophers and theologians over the years attempting to define happiness and to identify its components. But recently Michael J. Fox, living with Parkinson’s for over 20 years put it more plainly:
I really love being alive. I really love my family and my work. I love the opportunity I have to do things. That’s what happiness is.
If you’re working to increase your happiness, perhaps you’ve already begun with the strategies we talked about earlier this week – increasing your gratitude and engaging by using your character strengths. Today, using Fox’s formula of affirmative focus, family and meaningful work accomplishments, we have four more tips for you in the quest to attain true happiness.
Savor the pleasurable events and emotions you experience. First immerse yourself in these activities, being mindful so that your experience is rich and deep. Then set aside time later to re-live and enjoy the event and your feelings all over again. You’ll find that your body becomes more relaxed, your thoughts more focused and your mood more upbeat.
Build and nurture personal relationships. Studies continue to show that positive relationships provide a buffer for the stresses we all encounter and are correlated with greater happiness, well-being, optimism, improved health, even a longer lifespan. And they work to create an upward spiral – the happier we are, the more we attract additional positive relationships.
Create a meaningful life by helping others. When you make a commitment to help others, your altruism also benefits you by increasing your levels of joy and contentment. Receiving a windfall of money – like that coming from a lottery win – doesn’t actually lead to a long-term rise in happiness when spent on oneself, once basic needs are met. Yet spending a portion of that money on others – either as a gift or as a charitable donation – is correlated with an increase in happiness.
Set goals for yourself and work to achieve them. Striving for and accomplishing a goal leads to increased self-esteem and a sense mastery and efficacy. When you overcome challenges along the way, it creates even deeper well-being and feelings of control. And the optimism that you have about future meaningful successes can generate authentic happiness.
President Abraham Lincoln, who went through great trials and difficulties, shared his view:
Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
How happy will you decide to be? Can you get there without depending on a lottery ticket?