Happiness For Dummies
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Happiness is an important part of life — no less than anger, sadness, and fear. But how do you know if you're happy? Are you as happy as most people? If you have lots of money or a fancy title at work, shouldn't that be enough to make you happy? Discover how balancing your life is one way to achieve overall happiness.

What happiness isn't

Human beings are wired with an innate, neurological potential for happiness, but if you’re like most people, you’re not entirely sure what happiness is. Well, here are six things that happiness isnt:

  • Happiness isn’t about being wealthy. Money buys you comfort, support, and freedom of action, but it doesn’t make you happy.

  • Happiness isn’t about being powerful. Power is about exerting your will on others; happiness comes from working together in mutually satisfying ways.

  • Happiness isn’t about achieving success. Some of the most successful people are very unhappy — and vice versa. The only exception: people who decide to succeed at being happy.

  • Happiness isn’t just about being excited. If you fall down a flight of stairs, there certainly is a great deal of excitement — but you’re surely not happy! Sadly, excitement often creates an illusion of happiness — and that illusion doesn’t last.

  • Happiness isn’t a life-transforming experience. Happiness is momentary — it comes and goes — but it doesn’t change your life in any significant way. Enjoy happiness while you have it!

  • Happiness isn’t always an easy thing to achieve. Most people have to work at being happy. Life has its challenges, for sure, so how do you deal with them?

Are you happy? 10 questions to figure it out

If you want to know how close you are to happiness, here’s some self-assessment you can do. Be honest with yourself as you answer the following questions — otherwise, the exercise won’t be helpful.

  • Do you feel safe in your everyday life? If you feel unsafe, that’s all you can focus on — you don’t have the time or space to be happy.

  • Do you feel you have enough of what you need to be happy? Having enough of what you need isn’t the same as having everything you want. Sure, you may be dying for a new car, but do you have a car that gets you from point A to point B? If so, you have what you need.

  • Do you have moments when you look at the totality of your life instead of the events of the day? This is called taking stock, and it helps you appreciate the whole of your life rather than just the part you’re living today. You could just be having a bad day in an otherwise good week.

  • Do you often find a quiet place to enjoy a moment of self-reflection? Sanctuary is a good thing. Unfortunately, in today’s hectic, fast-paced world, most people have too little of it. A quiet moment here and there can make all the difference in how you feel throughout the day.

  • Are you satisfied with your finances, relationships, and career? Being satisfied doesn’t necessarily mean that you have all the money in the world, a perfect marriage, or an outstanding career. It just means that things are all right for the moment.

  • Are you optimistic about your life? From where you’re standing, does the future look bright? Do you envision more good times than bad in the months ahead? Are you hopeful about the future? If so, you can move forward with joyful anticipation.

  • Are you grateful for the way your life is unfolding? Being grateful can be as simple as waking up every morning and saying “thank you” for the challenges, promises, and opportunities this day offers you.

  • Do you often experience peace of mind? Can you actually hear yourself think without the noisy outside world intruding? Can you feel the power of silence? A quiet mind and a quiet body go hand in hand.

  • Would you rate your health and well-being as above average? You don’t have to be a perfect 10 — anything from 6 on up means you’re ahead of the game. If you’re comparing yourself to others, make sure it’s a fair comparison. A 60-year-old can’t rate his health as above average if his standard is the way he felt when he was 20.

  • Do you often find yourself feeling content? Being content means you’re comfortable with where you are at this moment in life and you have no burning desire to make a change. Life is good and you want to savor it.

So are you happy? It depends on how many of these questions you answered with “yes.”

5 ways to attain happiness at work

If you’re tired of being unhappy at work, you can do something about it. Here are five tips that you can use to remedy the problem:

  • Always say “please” and “thank you” to your fellow employees. The better you treat others, the more willing they’ll be to help you get the job done.

  • Establish healthy boundaries. Don’t confuse personal and professional relationships — look for intimacy in other areas of your life.

  • Avoid toxic co-workers. These people are the naysayers, complainers, and spoilers who want to rain on everyone else’s parade. The more you’re exposed to them, the unhappier you’ll feel.

  • Look for win-win solutions. It’s a fact: Employees who engage in win-lose battles with each other waste a lot of productive energy and end up exhibiting counterproductive work behavior. Why not try compromising, accommodating, or collaborating once in a while? Believe it: Things will go more smoothly.

  • Handle your anger constructively. If anger leads to an improvement in how you and your co-worker relate and work together, then it’s constructive. If it simply ends up hurting the other person, it’s not.

Strive for happiness by balancing life

Overall happiness results from striking a balance in all aspects of your life. Happiness occurs in moments, not in hours, days, weeks, months, or years. The trick is to enjoy the moment, to relish the experience, and to be mindful that it’ll be gone before you know it.

Learn how to create and have more of these moments of happiness by balancing these factors:

  • Hassles and uplifts: The small pleasures of life offset the inevitable stresses, conflicts, and irritants that come your way.

  • Structure and freedom: Structure (rules, rituals, purpose) gives life meaning; freedom makes life enjoyable.

  • Work and play: You probably know how to work, but do you know how to play? And do you play enough? If you’re all work and no play, you’ll have trouble finding happiness.

  • Socialization and solitude: Having a confidant can literally save your life. People who have meaningful social ties to the world around them enjoy better health and a longer life. Solitude is about being alone without being lonely — it’s your opportunity to get to know yourself.

  • Selfishness and generosity: Happy people don’t think only about themselves — their wants and needs — they receive joy from serving others. But they don’t ignore themselves either. After all, if you don’t take care of yourself, who will?

  • Competition and cooperation: Whether at work, in marriage, or at home, there’s a time to compete (trying to have it your way) and a time to cooperate (going along with what others want). Sometimes you have to choose between winning and being happy.

  • The me and the we in intimate relationships: Couples need to maintain their individuality while at the same time being partners.

  • Needs and wants: Needs are the basics you need to sustain human life (water, food, shelter); wants are everything else. Happy people know how to negotiate their wants.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

W. Doyle Gentry, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, a distinguished Fellow in the American Psychological Association, and the Founding Editor of the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

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