“When I get a raise, then I’ll be happy.” “When I find the man of my dreams, then I’ll be happy.” “When I have a baby, then I’ll be happy.” “When I finish this project, then I’ll be happy.” These are some of the thoughts that run through the mind in an attempt to capture happiness.
As a psychologist I come from a background of studying the human condition, which is often about inner demons and suffering. For the past decade the field of psychology has slowly turned a corner. Positive psychology studies the firing of the brain when we are feeling optimistic, connected, grateful, love, altruistic and general happiness.
Happiness is a subjective feeling or internal experience that is hard to measure and sometimes hard to capture.
Henry David Thoreau remarked, “Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder…”
Happiness lies somewhere at the intersection of pleasure and meaning. That is, your chances for happiness are greatly improved if you are engaging in activities that are personally significant and enjoyable.
Interestingly happiness is not influenced by income (unless at poverty level), climate, address, religious preference, educational level, pain/disease/loss or number of transitions. Most of us come back to our happiness set point once the dust settles.
While happiness is an elusive state that comes in waves like all other emotions, there are strategies we can implement that increase the likelihood of experiencing happiness more often and more consistently.
Who are the happiest women?
- Women who surround themselves with supportive family members and friends.
- They are, in general, healthy physically and emotionally.
- They do not “keep up with the Jones” or measure themselves by others’ yardsticks.
- The happiest women get immersed on a regular basis in ‘flow’ activities. Flow activities are projects or interests that occupy the mind in such a deep way that one loses track of time.
- They pursue personal growth and intimate connections throughout their lives.
- The happiest women also know or learn how to forgive readily.
So the next time you start thinking when this happens then I’ll be happy, consider some other possibilities for generating a deeper, more long lasting experience of happiness.
What do you count on to make you happy?