“Happiness is an inside job. Don’t assign anyone else that much power over your life.” -Mandy Hale
Many of us believe in the pursuit of happiness. When we set a goal, we have begun a pursuit of something we hope brings us more happiness. Pursuing something creates energy. However, when the goal stays out of reach, or we fail several times on the journey, we discover that happiness can be elusive.
There is more than one type of happiness. My positive energy increased just looking at some synonyms (there are 994 at http://www.powerthesaurus.com) like; delight, pleasure, joy, bliss, enjoyment, contentment, satisfaction, ecstasy, glee, exhilaration, amusement, well-being, and nirvana.
If we take this short list of happy words and put them on a continuum which assumes the level of energy required or generated for that type of happiness, we will see three different levels of feeling happy.
The lower energy level words are contentment, satisfaction, and well-being. Middle energy level words are delight, pleasure, enjoyment, and amusement. Higher energy levels include joy, bliss, exhilaration, ecstasy, and nirvana.
You may reject the idea of only three levels or dislike my inclusion of some of the words in one of the categories – make your levels of happiness continuum work for you. This discussion, so far, is to create awareness of how happiness is more than a single experience.
The next step I want to take in this article is towards your happiness, at least at level 1, being purposeful and available daily. You can start a habit that will increase your happiness without the patience long-term goals require.
When we focus on the positive, it helps us appreciate the better things in life. You may “pay closer attention to positive events down the road and engage in them more fully—both in the moment and later on when you can reminisce and share these experiences with others. Reflecting on the cause of the event may help attune you to the deeper sources of goodness in your life.” (GGSC, The Science of Happiness, 2014)
The happiness creating exercise reported to make a real life difference based on studies conducted by Positive Psychology experts, Seligman, Park, Peterson, and Steen, is included at the end of this article.
One Thing to Do: Make positive thinking a tradition. The exercise (below) is from The Science of Happiness course available through the Greater Good Science Center.
Happiness Practice #1: Three Good Things.
Each day for at least one week, write down three things that went well for you that day and provide an explanation for why they went well. It is important to create a physical record of your items by writing them down; it is not enough simply to do this exercise in your head. The items can be relatively small in importance (e.g., “my co-worker made the coffee today”) or relatively large (e.g., “I earned a big promotion”). To make this exercise part of your daily routine, some find that writing before bed is helpful.
As you write, follow these instructions:
- Give the event a title (e.g., “co-worker complimented my work”)
- Write down exactly what happened in as much detail as possible, including what you did or said and, if others were involved, what they did or said.
- Include how this event made you feel at the time and how this event made you feel later (including now, as you remember it).
- Explain what you think caused this event—why it came to pass.
- Use whatever writing style you please, and do not worry about perfect grammar and spelling. Use as much detail as you’d like.
- If you find yourself focusing on negative feelings, refocus your mind on the good event and the positive feelings that came with it. This can take effort but gets easier with practice and can make a real difference in how you feel.
Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.