What research tells us about being happy...
I'm back at work this week and still in the practice of Sayulita yoga bliss. Since my return, I am committed to take a few minutes every morning to meditate on the salty clean ocean smells, the soothing warmth of the sun, the full moon, sky lit nights ( admittedly less on the margarita-too-many). And I've been mindful of the process of my unwinding on vacation, so my vacation becomes a style for living, (at least for a window of the day).
You are the designer of your own life. How do you maintain balance in your own mix of work, home, family, pets—and rain? Admittedly I must be worried about losing my bliss because I woke up this morning from a dream that my husband and I were asked to participate in Pharrell Williams new "Happy" music video and we forgot the words (Just in case this happens to you, click here.
And according to 2013 United Nations Happiness Report, you may even live a little longer if you are happy (Worth doing Pharrell's happy dance first thing this morning?)
So, what does research tell us about happiness? According to Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist of U.C. Berkley's Greater Good Science Center's advisory board, our brain is hardwired to focus on the negative even when there are positive things happening in the day.
The good news is that despite this negativity bias, you can train yourself to pay more attention to positive information and therefore build new positive neural pathways. It is true that neurons that fire together wire together. You can shift your life towards the positive as you train your brain a little every day when you try the following:
- Keep a journal;
- Share your positive experiences with others;
- Take more time to rehearse positive experiences and feelings; and
- Hang around people who make you feel good.
It is important to hang around people who make you feel good because your brain state and others’ brain state is contagious. Manage your time and check in with yourself after your visits with others. How do you feel? If you feel good then see him or her more. Do you feel badly? Then maybe you should see him or her a little less.
Additionally, research shows that living meaningfully by contributing to others well-being, actually benefits your immune system to stave off illness. Barbara Fredrickson and Steve Cole, from UCLA defined meaning as an orientation to something bigger than the self.
Through MRI scans researchers have been able to detect how the brain responds to stimulus and the changes that follow in gene activity. It turns out, when people are under stress there is an increase in the activity of proinflamatory genes and a decrease in the anti-viral response (reported in the Atlantic Aug, 2013).
Do you watch time click by in the work you are doing? Or do you feel passionately connected to your work because you know you are making a difference? We all need to make a little so we can spend a little, but would you do your work if you weren't being paid? And if you answered "no," are there ways you can create more meaning for yourself thinking outside of the box?
- What do you dream about?
- How intentional are you really?
- What have you noticed what makes others in your life happy?
- When is the last time you did something kind for someone else?
The Sun Never Says
Even after all this time
The sun never says to the earth,
'You owe me.'
Look what happens
With a love like that—
It lights the whole world.
-Sufi Poet, Hafiz
More advice on how to be happy on YourTango: