Happiness fuels our lives, our work and our relationships with energy and aliveness. For over 30 years scientists have been studying happiness: what it is; whether we have any control over our level of happiness; and, if we do have control, how much; and, if so, what can we do to increase it.
Happiness has been defined in various ways so, to avoid confusion, Sonja Lyubomirsky’s definition of happiness will be used: “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”
So, here’s what the research says: 50 percent of our happiness is determined by our genes (no control); 10 percent is determined by life situations such as income levels, living arrangements, marital status, children, and health (some control); and, 40 percent is determined by our daily activities (complete control).
However, just like creating and maintaining healthy relationships, it takes work to increase happiness above our genetic set point.
So, why bother? Researchers have discovered the following benefits: happier people make more money, they are more likely to marry, have happier marriages, less likely to divorce, have more friends, are more giving and generous, cope better with stress and trauma, have a stronger immune system, and live longer.
So what activities will bring more of these benefits into daily life? A primary source of happiness and satisfaction are relationships. So take time to nurture and deepen your relationships. Not being connected to others, whether at the individual or community level, is as bad for our health as smoking or obesity.
Another helpful activity is recording three pleasurable things that happened during the day which allows you to savour them again. Engaging in aerobic exercise releases feel good neuro chemicals and is good for body and mind – it is the “Miracle Grow” for the brain.
Trying new experiences and learning new skills slows time down, keeps us interested, and feeds our creativity.
Spending money on experiences rather than stuff gives longer satisfaction, as well as something to talk about and savour. And finally, my new favourite, laughter yoga.
These are a few ways we can raise our happiness level. There is no one size fits all. So don’t give up if something isn’t right for you. Continue experimenting until you find the right fit. The payoff is a happier more fulfilling life.
Wondering what the heck Laughter Yoga is? Cranbrook area 50+ “adults with experience” are invited to give it a try Friday, April 20 during Better at Home’s regular Coffee Talk gathering. Drop in to Cranbrook Family Connections (the old bingo hall between Core Fitness and Memorial Arena), Friday April 20 at 2 pm. Small donations are appreciated to help cover cost of coffee and treats.
Coffee Talk is a small group seniors social, part of Better at Home’s Social Connections program, which also includes bi-monthly lunches, Art Therapy, and Tai Chi & Relaxation.
Submitted by Laurie Harris/Cranbrook Better at Home