“One day the Creator gathered all the animals and said:
‘I want to hide the secret to a happy life from humans until they are ready for it.’
‘Give it to me. I’ll fly it to the moon,’ said the Eagle.
‘No, one day soon they will go there and find it.’
‘How about the bottom of the ocean?’ asked the Salmon.
‘No, they will find it there too.’
‘I will bury it in the great plains,’ said the Buffalo.
‘They will soon dig and find it there.’
‘Put it inside them,’ said the wise grandmother Mole.
‘Yes,’ said the Creator, ‘it is the last place they will look.’“
The Secret to a Happy Life ~ Native American parable
The Secret to Your Happiness
If you check out the self-help section of Amazon or any bookstore, you’ll find hundreds if not thousands of titles aimed at increasing our personal happiness by losing weight, getting a better job, finding the ideal mate, taking the perfect vacation, eating the latest trendy food, or making more money. But the latest research on happiness suggests there are as many definitions or experiences of happiness as there are people. Finding our own brand of personal happiness is a bit like appreciating art – it’s subjective, but we know it when we see it. The secret to your happiness is that it’s within you!
Though happiness is unique to each of us, one commonality from this research is that people have control over their own happiness (or unhappiness). We can measure it, control it, and learn to cultivate it. In other words, we can proactively train ourselves to feel happy.
Although happiness can be a tricky concept, it is becoming increasingly possible to crack the code, both in the bigger picture, and in hands-on ways that make a difference in your daily life.
The Meta of Happiness
What is happiness? Is it a state of mind? A philosophy? Is it an emotion that we can manage like anger and sadness?
“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” ~ Aristotle.
Aristotle helped us understand happiness in two distinct parts:
Hedonia: the feeling of pleasure, enjoyment, and satisfaction and the absence of stress and distress.
Eudaimonia: a good life based on authenticity, personal growth, while contributing to a purpose larger than oneself.
It turns out Aristotle’s two thousand year-old wisdom still applies today. University of Pennsylvania psychology professor, Dr. Martin Seligman has identified three dimensions of a happy life that correlate well with Aristotle’s ideas:
The Pleasant Life (pleasure seeking). Looking for opportunities to maximize feelings of pleasure while minimizing feelings of pain.
The Good Life (engagement). Seeking happiness by using our signature strengths to fulfill our desires by pursuing our passions.
The Meaningful Life (wellbeing). Finding happiness using one’s strengths, abilities, and passions in the pursuit of and service towards a greater good.
While happiness is individual, it is also universal. Happiness has become recognized by the United Nations as a key measure of social progress in the world. The World Happiness Report, which ranks 155 countries by their happiness levels, found that, while the Nordic countries topped the list, the USA plummeted from 3rd place in 2006 to 19th in 2016.
Globally, we are richer than ever before, have greater access to advanced medicine, technology, information, healthy food, and live in a time of unprecedented freedom and opportunities. So why are so many of us still so unhappy?
It seems we stick with jobs we dislike, relationships that are unhealthy, are cynical about our institutions, and burden ourselves with attaining and maintaining ‘stuff’. Basically we’re overextended, underappreciated, have fewer social supports, and feel more uncertain than we have in over a decade. And what’s the typical response to this malaise? We put our heads down, roll up our sleeves, and work harder. That’s a recipe for keeping our happiness at bay.
The good news is we can learn ways to respond to our situations in ways that create and promote our happiness.
Stay tuned for next week’s blog for part 2 of our series on how to create happiness in our lives.
Remember, the secret to happiness is that it’s within YOU.
Want some more in-depth help with creating happiness? I’d love to talk with you. Schedule your FREE Wellness Consultation with me today, HERE!