The Pursuit of Happiness (II)


If we are barking at the wrong tree when depending on external factors for our true lasting happiness, what could we do to deflect from this erroneous path?

I am not sure if it is a good thing that there are lots of resources on the topic of happiness.  On one hand it is good to know that we are not alone in this journey while on the other it is rather sad to know that there are so many people afflicted by the disease – of not being happy.  I refer unhappiness to being a disease simply because with enough commitment to change, this trend could be reversed.

It is interesting how long people pulse when you ask if they are happy.  At times I wonder which of these could be the real reason for the delay in answer:

  • They have never given it deep thoughts.
  • They are afraid or embarrass to say what they think.
  • They are thinking to form an answer that they think you want to hear.
  • They do not know how to qualify if they are happy or not.
  • …and many others I could not venture to guess.

If there is a long pulse before you get an answer, it could be a telltale sign of an unhappy person.  If you are happy, it will be evident; every expression in your manner, speech and action projects it.

To reset our genetic happiness set point (see also http://wp.me/pJZPk-2h), we need to practise more positive thinking on a regular basis which will then lead us to having more positive emotions.  It is not good enough to start on a transformation programme only to stop after a few days or weeks.  It has got to be a continuous process of self-awareness, self-development and self-appraisal to the point of becoming second nature to you.  The transformation process involves a change in mindset and developing the ability to consciously observe yourself in thoughts and actions moment-by-moment in your everyday life.

Wow, I know it sounds tough and it is tough.  That is why you need to break everything down into achievable chunks to digest and practise.

Here are some suggestive steps you could take:

  1. Read some books or search the web for resources to help you line up the various exercises you could do to help in the transformation process.
  2. Commit to making these changes and set short and long term goals.
  3. Identify the ones that are most comfortable for you.
  4. Prioritize and decide which ones to start with.  Start small with just a couple of exercises that can easily fit into your current lifestyle.
  5. If necessary, get a life coach to help you for a faster and more effective change.
  6. Perform regular evaluations and adjust.
  7. Add on more exercises when you feel right.

It typically takes 21 days of consistent application to form sustainable habits but be kind to yourself if you do not make it on some days.  Being overly hard on yourself can discourage and hinder your progress and, you don’t want that.

If you are not using a coach, you could start a support group comprising people with whom you are comfortable having the same objective – to attain true lasting happiness – as a common goal.  However, you need some very strict rules of engagement in the group to make this a success.  More of this in the next article.

Hope you enjoy this and are able to use some of the suggestions here.

The Joy of Appreciation


Do you notice that when you give out gifts you receive more?  Not necessarily in terms of receiving more gifts in return but the warm tingling sensation of happiness that wraps around your heart when the receivers of the gifts beam their several-thousand-watt smile at you.  You know that your gifts are appreciated and they are happy.

That is the joy of giving which is one of the reasons I enjoy Christmas.  That is the time when I would be busy thinking of the things to buy or make to give to family, relatives and friends.  What joy!  And I am thankful that I have all these to give.

It is sad that most people now think Christmas as being too commercialized but does it really matter?  What matters is how you perceive it and what you are going to make out of it no matter what others say or do. If you put enough effort to it, you will know to find the right gift for each person and you receive twice as much in happiness for the effort.

Sure there will always be people who exchange gifts (1) because it is expected of them, (2) all in the name of fun and so, as long as the gifts are purchased and given, who cares if the recipient likes it or not.  Still as a recipient of the gifts, even they are not quite what you like, appreciate the thought that the giver has you in mind and has spent money on you.

Showing genuine appreciation is an art.  The better you are able to appreciate the better it is for you.  Remember we should improve our happiness set point and feeling and showing appreciate is one of the means to improve it.  When you consciously appreciate the efforts of another, you are forming positive emotions which automatically makes you feel better of yourself and the giver.  Try it and consciously notice how you feel, both as a giver and receiver of gifts.  The gifts may not be in a form of presents but they could be a smile, a service, close trusting friendships and so forth.

Now then why should we wait for occasions – Valentines Day, Birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Teacher’s Day, Children’s Day, etc. – to feel appreciation?  Sometimes I think these days are specially created to remind people to be appreciative because leaving it up to us, we are very likely not do it.  Sad, huh?

Happiness and positive emotions can be generated at any occasion of your choice.  Make it an everyday occurrence.  Observe the number of times you actually show appreciation for the service and help extended to you in a day. When you start doing this you may realise there are very few if at all because we have taken a lot of things for granted.  It would be hard to rack up anything until you are in the swing of things.  Practice makes perfect – so start now to note down the opportunities that you have showed or missed showing any appreciation a day.  Overtime, with constant practice and conscious self-observation, the appreciation list will grow.

Once the practice is internalized and naturally becomes part of you, you will find that there are just too many to list them all.  Continue nonetheless as the more you do, the happier you feel.  People around will also appreciate you more because your happiness attracts them.  It comes in a full circle.  What you do influence others.  Won’t you want others to be just as happy as you?

The Pursuit of Happiness (I)


Who could honestly say they are not pursing happiness?  I think none would.  Everything we do relates to creating happiness; from shopping for the best of everything to ingesting the best foods.  However all of those actions can only appease but a moment and soon be replaced by another craving for a better watch, pants, ring, mobile phone, movie, etc.  There is no end to the things we want in hope to quench the thirst for happiness only that we do not realize that happiness is really what we are after and not the things we own.

Happiness depends, as Nature shows, less on exterior things than most suppose – William Cowper.

A research on happiness demonstrates that the statement above is true.  Until I read the book “Happy for No Reason” (in which the author reported statistics to support this point) and did a little digging on my own, I have not given much thought to this.  Perhaps I have taken for granted what truly being happy means.

I reproduce here the statistics as reported in “Happy for No Reason”:

  • Americans’ personal income has increased more than two and a half times over the past fifty years but their happiness level has remained the same.
  • Nearly 40 percent of the people on the Forbes list of wealthiest Americans are less happy than the average American.
  • Once personal wealth exceeds $12,000 a year, more money produces virtually no increase in happiness.

I would suppose the statistics here would not have been very different elsewhere.  It is not too difficult to call to mind a wealthy friend or two who are not too happy with their lives no matter how much money they have.  They then go on to an acquisition spree for higher status, education, more and better branded stuff, bigger and flashier cars, more attention, love, respect, etc. but still find happiness elusive.

Interestingly people who suffer from depression are not necessarily those who are destitute but also from the wealthiest.  There are probably more people in the lower rungs of society who are inertly happier than those in the higher social class; at least they have something to aim and hope for.  It is when you have everything and still cannot find happiness, that must be the most painful.

In the research report Happiness is a stochastic phenomenon by  David Lykken and Auke Tellegen  published by American Psychological Society in 1996, it is said that social economic status accounted less than 3% in the variance in general well-being.  (To read the report, go to http://cogprints.org/767/0/167.pdf.)

Our happiness set point may be inherently encoded in our genes.  However, it is possible to reset to a higher level by our experiences and consistent application of positive emotions.

“Dysfunctional behaviour exacerbates depression, whereas the things happy people do enhance their happiness.”

You may also want to watch this video about happiness set point:

Intense happiness is an emotion that fluctuates according to moods and events (winning a contest, getting promoted, etc.) while to be truly happy is the high set level of contentment and peace to which we fall back regardless of our emotions over both good and bad experiences of our lives.

There is no arguing of the fact that we all have moods – the causal effects of events happening around us – but the duration of the positive or negative impact may be prolonged by concentrated and repeated thoughts that determines the level of happiness or unhappiness.  Therefore the ability to self-regulate thoughts would help to improve the happiness set point in the long run.

Since we could reset our happiness set points, there is no excuse to remain unhappy.  All you need is to find the key to unlock the blockage.  Have your found yours?