Happiness: It’s Easier Than You Think

If you ask most people what they want in their lives and what is most important, they will likely tell you that they “want to be happy.” The desire for happiness is a universal want. It transcends culture, geography, age, and social status. The topic of happiness even finds its way into the academia, an example of its pervasiveness.

The most popular course at Harvard Medical School is a course on happiness. Taught by Harvard psychology professor Tal D. Ben-Shahar, Ph.D., the course is so popular that students wait a year or longer to get in.

A Different Take

Happiness is traditioanlly defined as a state of well-being and contentment, joy, a pleasurable or satisfying experience; yet many people report that happiness is elusive or too often fleeting at best.

Modern happiness gurus like Ben-Shahar offer an altered take on what happiness is or can be. They invite us to walk around the subject and take a different look at the almost mystical feeling called happiness. They suggest not an “I’ll be happy when…” perspective, but allowing ourselves to see how happiness can be enjoyed anytime we choose to have gratitude and joy about the daily, simple blessings in our life.

Happy Right Now

The lesson is that there are things we can be happy about right now and continue to be happy about throughout the day, no matter what else has happened or is going on. These things and experiences are already built into our lives, and it is just a matter of focusing on the simple pleasures and joys these opportunities can provide.

Things That Spark Happiness:

  • The peace and tranquility of rising early in the morning.
  • Listening to birds singing.
  • Watching strangers laugh and smile.
  • Working cooperatively with others.
  • Curling up with a good book on a rainy day.
  • The pleasure of lying down on clean, soft bedding.
  • Time with your best friend.
  • Being kissed.
  • The smell of apple pie baking.
  • A moment of love shared with family.
  • A home-cooked meal.
  • A freshly cleaned bathroom.
  • A long, hot bath or shower.
  • Music that moves you.
  • Sharing stories and memories.
  • Being hugged.
  • Breathing deeply.
  • Completing a task or project.
  • Time in a garden.

Think of all the things in your day that can bring joy or happiness when you allow yourself to be in the moments of your life, and share your hours and days with others and with yourself. Happiness is all around us. It is often just a matter of allowing ourselves to embrace it.

For a free chapter download about changing behavior, visit changingbehavior.org.

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The Nourishment Of Our Relationships

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We don’t often think of relationships as nutritious, but indeed they are. Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, made a statement about the power of love and relationships and their importance to our happiness: “We are never so helplessly unhappy as when we lose love.”

A Little Knowledge

Freud knew something from his experience about the human condition because of his many years treating patients who experienced difficult, unfulfilling and loveless relationships. We often forget that those who love us and those we love fulfill our basic human need to be known, valued and wanted. All healthy human beings want to be valued and want to experience being cared for and treated respectfully. We want to receive affection from those we care about.

As an older adult who, like Freud, has seen the ravages of love’s loss, I have come to appreciate and cherish those in my life who fulfill my need to be valued and wanted, my need to be loved.

Perfect Memories

It is important for each of us to remember that no one is perfect and that if we expect perfection in love, we will surely be disappointed. One of the gifts of age and experience is the relief of realizing that each act of love we give from our imperfect self to another and the love given to us by imperfect others is the most important wealth we possess.

At the end of the day, when all else is stilled and the distractions of work, ambition, success and achievement are put aside, those we “go home to” and the nourishment they provide us are our real treasures.

May we take a moment each day to appreciate how profound a blessing the gift of relationship is in our lives. For a free download on enhancing your relationship through communication skills, visit http://www.changingbehavior.org/.