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A close-up of a newly opened delphinium flower (Summer 2013).

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Are You Happy? Part I

Happiness is not in our circumstance but in ourselves.
It is not something we see, like a rainbow, 

or feel, like the heat of a fire.
Happiness is something we are.

John B. Sheerin

If I ask you what makes you happy, what would be your answer? 

Is it your spouse, your children, your work, your friends? Is it having money, a nice house, a new car, a Mac computer? Is it reading books, cooking a meal, planting a garden, listening to music?

Since we are unique human beings, what makes you happy might not make others happy. 

However, what makes you happy says a lot about you as a person.

If you are happy with small things (the smell of roses, the taste of brewed coffee, the sight of an herd of deer) or with simple activities (reading a good book, gardening, listening to music), then it is easy for you to be happy in life. Perhaps you are a person who feels grateful about what you already have. You count your blessings and that is a sure way to make you happy.

If you are happy with big things (having lots of money, a huge house and a new car every 3 years), chances are you have been working extremely hard  to have acquired all these. The world's top 3 billionaires (as of 2010) like Carlos Slim Helu, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett came from humble beginnings. However, they were innovators and were willing to put a lot of time, energy, and focus in their endeavors. If you are rich or on the way of becoming one, then you are a highly driven person, success-oriented, and a risk taker.

If you are happy with helping others (donating to charity, delivering meals to seniors, helping street kids) then you are a miracle worker whose goal is to make others' lives a bit easier and better. Mother Teresa exemplifies a person whose happiness is found in helping others--the poorest of the poor. If your happiness is found in helping others, then you are socially-conscious, loving, and committed to find resources for those in need. 

What do studies tell us about happy people? Dr. Henry Cloud (2011), a psychologist, enumerated the following characteristics of people who are happy, based on large studies. Below is the summary:

Happy people are givers.  Research show that people who are givers, those who serve others and are altruistic are much happier than those who are not. Neuroscientists Jorge Hall and Jordan Grafman from the National Institutes of Health discovered that the pleasure centres of the brain (the ones that respond to food and sex) also light up when people think of giving to others. However, take note that giving past your resources (i.e., emotional, financial) may lead to unhappiness.

Happy people are not lazy about happiness. There is a difference between saying, "Good morning, Lord," and "Good Lord, morning". The first greeting is a trademark of people who invest their time and resources in building a fulfilling and meaningful life. The second greeting speaks of a lazy attitude, a lack of movement, an entropy. If you are happy, you will find the time and the resources to do what you love to do and be upbeat about it.

Happy people don't wait for someday. Happy people are happy "now", not when they get their first million, or write their first book, or find that dream person. Research show that people who are experiencing the joys and pleasures of the present are less likely to be stressed and depressed. People who are skilled at capturing the joy of the present moment, hanging on to good feelings, and appreciating things in the "now" are not dependent on a "someday when things get better" frame of mind. They make things better now.

Happy people pursue goals. Many people are out of touch of their true desires. They make goals out of other people's expectations. As a result, their whole heart, mind, and soul are not in what they do. What kind of goals do happy people pursue? Not just any goal. They choose goals that are intrinsic, the ones that come from who they truly are. They grasp goals that jump out of their heart that have been there for a long time. They make goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely (commonly known as SMART).

Happy people are fully engaged. Time seems to disappear when happy people are working on projects or activities they like. They experience what is called the "flow", when their emotions and mind are aligned at the task at hand. This experience is said to create spontaneous joy, even rapture.

Happy people connect. Happy people are deeply connected with family members, friends, and co-workers. They have a social support system whereby they are accepted for who they are, regardless of their mistakes and limitations. This way, happy people are not alone, not lonely, and definitely not isolated. 

Remember: Don't waste a minute being unhappy. If one window closes - run to the next window - or break down a door.

Next week, I will continue writing the rest of the characteristics of happy people, in summary form.

Meanwhile, leave your comments or questions in the Comments space below.

Have a happy week!

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