People are certainly interested in the topic of happiness these days. In 2000 there were only 50 books published on the topic. In 2008, over 4000 titles on the subject of happiness hit the market!
It’s in vogue to ask ourselves, and each other, if we are happy. But what does it mean to be happy? What makes people truly happy? Do we have the ability to control our level of happiness?
Experts say that the most useful definition of happiness is “content” or “satisfied.” It means living a meaningful life, utilizing your gifts and your time, and living with thought and purpose.
What makes us happy? People often say they would be happy if they had more money, or if the circumstances of their daily lives improved. The truth is, getting what you want doesn’t bring lasting happiness. Because we humans are so adaptable, we adapt to feast and famine equally well – meaning that the difficult times in our lives end up not being so bad, and the good times aren’t as good as we thought they’d be either. We adjust to the improvements (more money, more things) and just need more to make us “happy.” And “happiness” is always out of reach.
Some people might indeed be born with more positive, happy personalities, but we do have the ability to improve our levels of satisfaction and contentment. Some tips from the pros:
1. Expect difficulties in life, and allow yourself to feel negative emotions when appropriate. Don’t attempt to banish sadness from your life. Rather, allow the dark periods to contrast with the light.
2. Set goals and work toward them; live by your values. Ask yourself what is truly meaningful, and live each day with an intention to seek what really matters to you. Happiness comes in action, in the path to the finish line, not just the achievement of a goal.
3. Make strong personal relationships your priority.
4. Act happy. “Fake it ’til you make it.”
5. Exercise. Endorphins released during aerobic exercise really do boost mood.
6. Take care of your soul. Actively religious people are happier and handle crises better.
7. Speak nicely to others – and yourself. Your internal dialogue has a profound impact on your attitude.
8. If you have it – give it away. Money really does buy happiness – to the extent that people who give much of it away are better off.
I hear often that the people served by the PIME Missionaries – some of the poorest, most disadvantaged people in the world – are generally happy. Wondering why? Re-read the eight tips.
Now you know the secret. Be happy!
Don’t let your spirit become “polluted.” Here’s what Pope Benedict XVI had to say on the subject yesterday on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception:
“…there is another pollution, less perceptible to the senses, but just as dangerous. It is the pollution of the spirit; it is that which renders our faces less smiling, more gloomy, which leads us not to greet one another, to not look at one another in the face. […] Persons become bodies, and these bodies lose the soul, become things, objects without a face, to be exchanged and consumed.”