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Inside Out

Is your happiness index high?

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People all over the world believe that they have the right to be happy. And justifiably so.

Basic to human nature, the pursuit of happiness is essential.  It is the index to a life well lived.

Getting everything you’ve always wanted is like putting a check mark on your life’s wish list.  And the struggles that come along while on your way to achievement seem like a fair price to pay.

Indeed, the road to success can be full of obstacles. And while setbacks and roadblocks are part of the challenge, they are, after all, a part of the learning process. So, who cares if you get your knees bruised after stumbling? You can simply pick yourself up and keep going. To be ambitious in this success-driven world has become the rule, and not the exception.

So now, don’t wonder why, at some point during your marathon run to that ideal promotion or deal of the century,  you get burned out.

Stress, the fruit of modern civilization’s frantic pace of living, is an inevitable consequence.  While most people cannot get moving without stress and the accompanying adrenaline surge that pushes them forward, medical studies have proven that too much stress can kill.

Losing one’s health in the pursuit of wealth will ultimately force you to use your wealth to restore your health.

So is there a sane way to excel without sacrificing one’s well-being? Yes, there is.

Is there really a how to being happy?

While the description of happiness is a subjective one, there is, however, a scale. On a scale of one to 10, is your idea of happiness a 10?  In short, do you need to top it? Or is a six to seven good enough for you?

There is an emotional spectrum involved here.  And it seems that no matter where you find yourself in the realm of feelings, there is a way to increase your sense of joy.

Beyond the gene

Scientists once believed that, emotionally, human beings are genetically predispositioned.  And this “fixed” setting could not be reversed.

However, this thinking has been disproved. In a 2009 published study of 60,000 adults in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, genes had a 50-percent influence on a person’s happiness profile. Of the remaining 50 percent, 10 percent was attributed to one’s personal circumstances (i.e. you are a natural beauty or talent) and 40 percent was unaccountable. Translation: It’s entirely up to you to mold your life.

In “Stumbling on Happiness” by author Daniel Gilbert, it is explained that most people don’t really know what makes them happy.  Blame it on what is called the phenomenon of “hedonic adaptation.”

At the onset of contentment, there is a rush of pleasure. But once you have gotten used to the feeling, its uniqueness turns to commonness. Thus the degree of pleasure you derive from it is not the same as the first time.

Example: You’re sweaty from the summer heat. Upon entering an air-conditioned room, you are overcome by a feeling of pleasure.  Soon, you get used to the feeling and it loses its novelty. The same holds true for a dream job or that perfect date. The emotional high that accompanies the perfect wish come true finally levels off.

There is a secret to tweaking that elusive and undefined 40 percent. And the answer lies in the nonmaterial.

Tipped in your favor

The happiness scale can be tipped to favor you. Here are some guidelines:

1. Repetition of “happy behavior.” Continue to repeat or  replicate behavior from past experiences that made you feel good.

As a child, the fondest memory I had with my Dad was when he first taught me how to fly a kite.  To this day, my fondness for kites has not waned. And once in a while I fly a kite on a windy day.

Find some activity that gave you a first thrill. There must be several you can think of. Choose one and recreate the scenario today.

2. Immersion. Whatever it is you are doing, immerse yourself in it. Whether it’s writing a book, baking a cake, learning to dance or paint, go with the flow of your intensity.

3. Keep cool.  Do you know that a cooler climate can boost your feel-good sensations, as opposed to hot temperature?

At the University of Michigan, researchers observed that participants felt better after having cold air blown up their noses than hot air. So, if you want to feel better, keep cool.

4. Exercise. Just 20-30 minutes daily is enough for your body to release endorphins or feel-good hormones.

5. Don’t obsess. If you had negative experiences in the past, don’t dwell on them. Let go of those unsavory memories.  Lighten your load.

6. Do a good deed. When you help someone, give them a shoulder to cry on, visit the sick, feed the hungry, save a sick child—all these acts of charity and empathy will strengthen your inner grace.

7. Forgive. It may be difficult and painful for you. But unforgiveness is like a cancer that will eventually eat you up. Practice forgiveness.

8. Keep the faith. Believe in God, in yourself, in destiny and your own power to change the course of your life.

9. Balance. Find your balance between work and personal life. Too much work leaves you little time for play and hardly any time for family.

Affirm today: “I believe”

Love and light!

Reference: “The Science of Happiness,” Leslie Pepper, Real Simple Magazine


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