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

Monday, March 21, 2011

Are You Happy? Part II

Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. 
Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute 
with love, grace and gratitude.

- Denis Waitley

I will continue to synthesize the characteristics of happy people based on Henry Cloud's book, The Law of Happiness. In Part I, I discussed about happy people being givers, not being lazy about happiness, not waiting for someday, have goals to pursue, are fully engaged and connected.

Below, I have summarized the rest of the characteristics of happy people:

Happy people don't compare themselves. You are unique, with your own gifts, talents, and horsepower. To compare yourself with anyone is like comparing apples and oranges. Happy people pay less attention to how others are doing and pay more attention to their life and how to make it better. They get inspiration from other people but take ownership of their life, their looks, their talents, their genes, their chemistry, hormone levels, and personality. 

Happy people think well. Two people can have the same experience but one calls it quits and the other reaches the goal. Why? Happy people do not take rejection and failure personally but believe in the future. One of the most documented realities in psychological research is that your thinking affects your moods, anxiety levels, performance, and well-being. Every single day, happy people are thinking thoughts that help them to be happy, and unhappy people do the opposite.

Happy people are grateful. One of the most powerful findings in psychology is that people who are grateful and practice gratitude regularly have significantly different levels of happiness than those who don't. Happy people are able to transition from being devastated to thriving as a result of practicing gratitude. When we are thankful and when we express it to others, we are happier. Research show that grateful people have less emotional and psychological ailments. Also, they show more relational capacities and are less envious and less materialistic. 

Happy people have boundaries. Research indicates that if you don't allow people to control you, abuse you, or mistreat you, you will be happier (read Lyubomirsky, 2008). Having boundaries means that you set limits on what you will and will not allow in your life. In psychology, it is called "locus of control"--when you are in control of your situation and of your life. In terms of boundaries, it means you don't allow other people's control, manipulation, irresponsibility, or even abuse to be in charge of your life.

Happy people forgive. It does not mean reconciling with and trusting people again who have wronged you. Forgiveness is defined as "canceling a debt," meaning people who have hurt you no longer owe you anything, because you have let go of the offense. Evidence from research affirms that when you forgive others, you are the biggest beneficiary--you will not be walking around with a lot of resentment, anger, and a head full of negative thoughts over an event in the past or towards a person who has hurt you. Happy people have an ability to forgive and move on after being hurt, breaking the cord between them and a past hurtful event. Forgiveness only takes one person--you.

Happy people have a calling. Researchers have identified three kinds of people: those who see their work as a "job," with its main purpose being to provide a living; those who see their work as a "career," with the purpose of advancement upward on a path; and those who see their work as a "calling," with the higher purpose of contributing to a larger good and for the intrinsic benefit and experience of the work itself (Bellah, Madsen, Sullivan, Swidler, & Tipton, 1986). Our calling has to do with using our gifts and passions to helping others and bettering the world. Happy people go inside the treasure chest of their heart and find what they really love doing, which brings them fulfillment and enjoyment. 

Happy people have faith. Happiness researcher Sonia Lyubomirsky finds that religious people are happier, healthier, and recover better after traumas than non-religious people. Numerous other studies have shown the positive relationship of faith to physical health and longevity (Carr, 2004). Faith and seeing God as a partner in coping with life has been shown to help depression and lower suicide rates (Pargament, 2001). When we are grounded in our relationship with God, we can face whatever happens with optimism.


Nest week, I will be writing more about happiness, in Are You Happy? Part III.

Meanwhile take care of yourself and learn how to be happier.

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