What exactly is happiness? Although it seems like a relatively subjective question, it really isn’t. While what makes one happy may vary from person to person, happiness in general is about being satisfied and content with life. With this in mind, consider the following questions:
If you answered yes to any of these questions, chances are good that you understand life satisfaction. You likely don't pursue happiness by driving the hottest car, owning the newest gadget, wearing the best attire, or living in a huge mansion. Instead your satisfaction comes from within yourself and the relationships you have formed. That is not to say that you wouldn't enjoy driving the hottest car, but your joy and satisfaction don't depend on it.
Happy people live an average of 9 years longer than unhappy people.
While we all may be in pursuit of happiness, we seek it in different ways. Yet, have you ever wondered if there are basic principles of living that can increase your level of happiness and life satisfaction? Perhaps the more important question is this: If indeed there are fundamental principles that you can implement in your life that would improve your level of happiness, wouldn't you want to know what they are?
Surprisingly, there is a growing body of literature and research that identifies core principles you can apply in your day-to-day living that will bring greater satisfaction and happiness into your life. This guided solution on happiness and life satisfaction offers a few simple strategies that will help you implement these principles in your life. If your happiness levels are lagging, the following steps can help you start down a path toward improving your happiness.
If you have not already done so, assess your current happiness level by taking our life satisfaction evaluation. The evaluation includes 20 questions designed to help measure your current state of happiness.Take an Evaluation
Do you know what makes you happy? Getting a better understanding of the answer to this question is the first step towards improving your level of happiness. It is not surprising that most people give basic responses to this question without ever really stopping to think about what really brings them joy and happiness. Having completed the previous exercise, you should have a better idea of your personal definition of happiness and things you can incorporate into your life to improve your own happiness.
The following exercise is designed to help you identify what makes you happy.
If you are still unsure about what happiness means to you, you are not alone. Many people struggle to understand happiness. They pursue happiness or they set goals that they believe will bring them happiness, but they don't take enough time to raise their awareness of what true happiness really means to them.
As a final step in understanding happiness in your own life, move through the following video created by Dr. Kevin Skinner, a relationship expert, entitled “Three Types of Happiness: Do You have All Three in Your Life?”
Considering what you have learned while listening through the video and working through the above exercise, what do you take away from the experience? What type of happiness do you have an abundance of? What type of happiness do you need to increase in your life? Feel free to revisit the video as needed to reassess happiness in your life.
To review, in the first step you took an evaluation designed to help you measure your life satisfaction and in the second step you identified what happiness means to you. In this step we will concentrate on the behavior of happy people - learning what happy people do.
It is a natural desire inside of each of us to pursue happiness. This step focuses on the research literature that indicates that by participating in certain activities you can increase your levels of happiness. If you were hoping to become a successful businessperson, you would study what successful business people do. Likewise, if you wanted to be a successful artist, you would study what great artists do. So what exactly does the research on happiness say happy people do? Happy people have good, rewarding relationships, are productive, and receive fulfillment from giving.
Let's begin with healthy relationships. Happy people have deep and enriching social relationships. In most circumstances the happiest of happy people are also in romantic relationships. There is a great power in developing meaningful relationships. For some people it adds more purpose and meaning to life. For others, it gives them support when they need help themselves. Happy people develop and nurture their relationships.
Use this relationship rubric to evaluate the satisfaction of your personal relationships.
Based on the information provided from the Relationship Rubric it is easy to start to develop a healthy relationship strategy. The following “Relationship Goal Chart,” created by Brett Williams, is provided to help you track how frequently you complete the 5 essentials and to remind you to focus on the essentials in your daily interactions.
Use this Relationship Goal Chart to start improving your relationships today!
Happy people are also productive. There is something about being actively involved in a project, personal development, or other meaningful event that brings happiness into people's lives. When employees are working hard and feel a common purpose with management goals, they report that their work is more enjoyable. To understand better how productivity affects happiness, listen through the following audio by Dr. Kevin Skinner entitled “Working Your Way to Happiness.”Listen Now
Yet another key component of true happiness is found in service and giving. In Dr. Martin Seligman's book Authentic Happiness, he reports that the happiest people are most likely serving and giving to others. In many instances we tend to think that service is complicated and time consuming. However, simple acts, such as holding a door for someone, offering to pick up a child from the daycare, or doing a random act of kindness can raise your level of happiness significantly. If you aren't sure what types of things you can do to be happier in your life, read through or listen to Dr. Kevin Skinner as he responds to the following member question: “What are some simple things I can do to be happier with my life?”Expert Response
The last exercise in this step is designed to help you identify one way to increase happiness in your life by helping others.
“Five Steps for Hoarding Joy” - Audio by Dr. Kevin Skinner LMFT
Having evaluated your happiness, identified what happiness means to you, and discovered what happy people do, the next step to improving your happiness is to identify and develop your inner strengths. In many instances we aren't mindful of our thoughts and actions, and as a result it is easy to get trapped in negative thinking and unhealthy behaviors. However, each of us has unique strengths and talents. Unfortunately, these tend to get pushed back in our busy world and we lose focus on our real strengths and talents—our inner core.
It is difficult, sometimes, to recognize one's own strengths. Complete this exercise to help you identify your inner strengths.
It is important to be aware of your inner strengths, as individuals who are the happiest tend to develop and nurture their inner strengths. In fact, they spend time developing their strengths and avoid wasting time on things that are of less importance.
Both how you think and what you think about affect your happiness. What do you think about when you have time to think? Are most of your thoughts productive thoughts, such as,
When I get home from work today I am going to play with my daughter Alisa before bed? Or is it more common for you to think,
I am so worn out, what am I going to do if Alisa wants more from me than I have tonight? Our thoughts have a tremendous influence on our level of happiness. In order to truly be happy, you have to develop positive thinking. You are only as happy as you think you are.
It is not uncommon after a long day (whether it be a long day of work or school or play) to be low on energy. However, as we develop and raise our happiness level we tend to focus our thoughts and actions in a more positive direction. In the second example, the thought,
...what am I going to do if Alisa wants more from me than I have? could be turned into this thought:
I am low on energy. When I get home I am going to tell Alisa that I am excited to spend some time with her, but I need a 15-minute break and then we can play hide and go seek.
Think about what you think about. Are your thoughts generally negative or positive and productive? This exercise is designed to help you recognize your thinking patterns.
As you begin to recognize your negative beliefs and how they make you think, act, and feel, it is easier to change your focus from negative to positive beliefs, thus increasing your happiness.
Finally, a powerful way to improve our inner core of happiness is to express our gratitude for what we have. Dr. Robert Holden uses this exercise in his course on happiness. He suggests to participants that they make a list of 100 things that they are grateful for. He suggests that this list include the "what" and "why" you are grateful. If you really want to boost your level of happiness, share your findings with the people who are on that list.
The emotions that drive our actions can impact the outcomes of those actions. To learn more about how acting out of positive emotions can result in positive consequences, read through the article by Dr. Joe Rubino, life coach, entitled “Are You Acting from Gratitude, Love, and Trust or Doubt and Fear?”Read Article
Now that you have completed steps 1-4, you can follow up on what you have learned by exploring some of our best resources on your particular situation. The whole purpose of this guided solution is to identify core principles you can apply in your day-to-day living that will bring greater satisfaction and happiness into your life. You can browse some of the resources we are recommending below. We add new resources every day, so check back often.
In-depth Happiness Workshop
This is a fully interactive learning module that will help you evaluate your happiness and strategize solutions for your personal life satisfaction.
My life is good and I have a nice family, but I feel like... Question answered by Ilene Dillon MSW
“The Power of Journaling” - Article by Dr. Kevin Skinner LMFT
“The Power of Focus” - Article by Ilene Dillon MSW
“Creating Authentic Happiness through Positive Psychology” - Audio by Kenneth Patey MS, Dr. Kevin Skinner LMFT
“Positive Words, Powerful Results” - Audio by Dr. Rich Varlinsky PhD
“Focus on the Positive” - Audio by Dr. Rich Varlinsky PhD
How can I feel more confident in my daily work? - Question answered by Diane Brandon
“The Impact of Lacking Self-Esteem on Business Professionals” - Article by Dr. Joe Rubino DMD, Life Coach
“Increase Happiness Through Exercise” - Article by Brett Williams LMFT
“Finding Your Own Happiness” - Audio by Dr. Rozario Slack PhD, Pastor