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Ways Towards Happiness

(Part 1)

As announced in the December newsletter, I will be looking at the many aspects of “Happiness” and how to achieve it in this one, and the upcoming newsletters. Even the title of this article reveals: there is not ONE, but different ways achieve happiness. I am going to explain my personal, both scientific and holistic approach on the subject in the context at the end of this article.

 

Before we get deeper into the topic of happiness, we might ask ourselves, of course, why bother? Why is it so important to be happy?

Here is a summary of research findings on the benefits of happiness [1]:

  • Physical Health: People are healthier overall and have decreased chronic pain, increased immune activity; have a lower likelihood of diabetes, stroke, cancer mortality and fatal accidents.

  • Social Health: They also have better social relationships. Happy people have more friends, are perceived smarter, more warm-hearted and less selfish, and are more likely to be trusted and supported.

  • Better Relationships: Happy people who marry get divorced more seldom and feel more love and fulfillment. Happy people are sociable, energetic, charitable and cooperative and think more flexibly and creatively.

  • Innovative & Creative: Happiness can boost creativity and innovation. Happy students, for example, had higher salaries 16 years later. Happy people are better rated by superiors and employees of happy superiors are found to be more creative, productive and healthier.

  • Longevity:  A higher life expectancy of 5-7 years for being happy when you're young or 20 months when you're older.

 

Therefore, dealing with happiness (one's own and other's) and promoting it as much as possible is therefore not a "luxury" but a rewarding task – almost a "must" with this list of benefits!

 

What is Happiness?

In German there is one word, “Glück” for both “Happiness” and “Luck”, which might influence the approach of German native speakers to happiness and therefore has to be clarified that we are addressing “Happiness” not “Luck” here. Happiness has many aspects: it can be a general feeling that our life is going well (= life satisfaction), a positive affect or even a trait that we have. Many scientists focus on the first two aspects, under the generic term "subjective well-being".

Of course there is not just one recipe to being happy. Happiness is also understood differently depending on one's culture and society. North Americans, for example, often define as personal achievement, whereas in East Asia it is seen as embedding oneself in social relationships [2].

 

Which factors determine whether we are more or less happy?

The following figure from the scientific article by Sonja Ljubomirsky [3], a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside and bestselling author [4], shows that around 50% of our level is due to our genes. It is an inherited, variable, so-called "Happiness setpoint", from which each individual level can increase or decrease.

 

The good news, however, is that only 10% of our happiness depends on the circumstances in our lives (which are not always easy or quickly changed for the better) and 40% of our happiness level –the “Intentional Activities”– can be actively influenced daily through conscious choices. Prof. Ljubomirsky recommends the cultivation of relationships, philanthropy, optimism, mindfulness and enjoyment, physical activity, spirituality and purposefulness for that 40%. These suggestions are already a foretaste of HOW to be happy.

 

Let’s now rule out common misconceptions concerning happiness.
Happiness does not mean:

• always being satisfied with life,

• meeting all personal needs,

• feeling joy or pleasure any time or

• never experiencing negative emotions.

 

Negative emotions such as anger, fear and sadness are human, situationally appropriate and should not be suppressed or repressed, but rather accepted and managed. Professional help can be useful here.

What gets in the way of our Happiness?

Science defines the following obstacles in our journey to Happiness:

  1. Hedonic Adaption [5]: There is no end in the fulfillment of our needs such as a new car, new gadgets, a house, then the boat. Our happiness rises quickly, goes  back down on our Happiness setpoint, moves back up again with a new purchase, but then settles at the normal level. In material terms, a never-ending treadmill.

  2. Affective Forecasting [6] is a subjective prediction of how strongly a life event will affect us. We are often poor judges what will make us happy or unhappy in the future and for how long and tend to unrealistically estimate that good events make us happy for a long time and negative events likewise. Fact is, that our "psychological immune system" settles on the setpoint much faster than we expect.

  3. Relating Happiness to the Accumulation of Things. Here is a connection to the Hedonic adaptation: Carter & Gilovich [7] investigated what makes people happier: collecting material possessions or experiences? They found out that both raise our happiness level at first, but experiences like a trip or a vacation make us happier in the long run.

  4. Does more Money equal More Happiness? In terms of money and happiness, people believe that more money means more happiness, and much more money means also much more happiness, a linear increase. Research by R. & E. Diener [8] has shown that money can increase happiness if it helps people escape poorer living conditions, but beyond that, the effects are limited as wealthier people increase their material wishes with their income. According to this study, 37% of the richest Americans are even less happy than the average.

 

We have clarified what happiness is not and what obstacles we should avoid. Now it’s particularly important to know: Where should we start, if we want to be happier?
Here are scientifically proven Basic Factors of Happiness:

  • Exercise

  • Sleep

  • Achievement [9]

 

Building on these basic factors, we also need positive relationships for happiness which are to be connected to others and to feel accepted and loved. Therefore, in the following newsletter we will look at so-called "prosocial behaviors", behaviors that allow for positive social relationships and various happiness techniques.

 

 

 

Do you want to live happier?

In a Happiness-Coaching you'll get your personal Happiness strategies & techniques !

 

 

All the best,

 Ingrid Stadtler-Pree

 

 

 

 

 

Context:

How can people live a more content, harmonious, relaxed and successful, HAPPIER life?
Implicitly, I have been involved with this question since 1998 in my trainings as a counselor, coach, trainer and especially in my Hawaiian training as Alaka'i of Aloha International.

The Science of Positive Psychology has been around for quite some time. However, nowadays it is taken more seriously and taught interdisciplinary at elite universities as "cutting edge science". In 2018, I completed a 9-week online course "The Science of Happiness" to study the latest science on the subject at the University of California, Berkeley.

 

Interestingly enough, the scientists didn’t find a lot of brandnew steps to happiness – but by means of large-scale studies many findings of ancient wisdom teachings and religions such as Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism (Yoga) and Jewish-Christian ways of thinking, could be demonstrated to make us happier.

 

Another source of wisdom is HUNA, the ancient, practical knowledge of the Polynesians, which was not explicitly mentioned in this particular UC Berkeley course. Perhaps it is not yet well known at the university level. Based on my many years of working with this knowledge and the practical techniques of the Hawaiians, I have found that HUNA has always included those, now scientifically proven paths of happiness, and more than that. Further explanations and examples in my upcoming newsletters.

 

References:

[1] Lecture:  “The Benefits of Happiness”- Science of Happiness-Course, UC Berkeley

[2] Uchida, Y., Norasakkunkit, V. & Kitayama, S. Journal of Happiness Studies (2004) 5: 223.: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-004-8785-9

[3] Sonja Lyubomirsky, David Schkade and Kennon M. Sheldon, "Pursuing Happiness: The Architecture of Sustainable Change," Review of General Psychology, Vol. 9, No. 2, 111–131, 2005

[4] Lyubomirsky S., 2007: The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want

[5] Frederick, S., & Loewenstein, G. (1999). Hedonic adaptation.

[6] Wilson, T. D., & Gilbert, D. T. (2003). Affective forecasting. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 35, 345-411

[7]https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/images/application_uploads/The_relative_relativity_of_material_and.pdf

[8] Biswas-Diener, Robert, and Ed Diener. "Will money increase subjective well-being? A literature review and guide to needed research." Social Research Indicators 57 (2001): 119-169

[[9] Studies have shown, that p.ex.: students, who had a sense of academial and social accomplishment, rated themselves happier. (Source: Transkript: Emiliana Simon-Thomas; What Does Make Us Happy-sVaf9L5UUd4-en.txt)

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