7 Keys to Happiness

Could you use more happiness in your life? I’m Sue Diamond Potts and I recently learned what factors are involved in the lives of the happiest people in the world. It may surprise you to find out it’s not what most people are chasing after. If you are someone who has struggled with depression, anxiety or relationship distress, chances are you could benefit from knowing what things you can do to develop a happier life.

Happiness varies

My happiness has been all over the map throughout my life. I believe I was born pretty happy (but then I think most of us are, quite frankly). Due to circumstances beyond my control I had quite an unhappy childhood and adolescence. Like most kids in homes where there is addiction and/or violence, life events blew happiness out the door. I didn’t know much about having fun outside of high risk behaviour that shot my adrenaline way up.

I became a mother early in life so I had to grow up fast. I worried a lot as a young adult and often made bad decisions that led to more worry. ‘Anxious’ was my middle name as I fretted about making ends meet financially or about why the last relationship didn’t work out – again.

Eventually, I began my healing journey which, while long and arduous, resulted in my happiness factor increasing significantly. I dealt with my addiction to drugs and alcohol and went back to school so I could follow my passion and earn a decent income. Fast forward to today and all of these efforts mean that I now live a life full of purpose, contentment and yes, much happiness.

If I were to graph my happiness on a timeline – it would have started high, sunk very low for a time and then gradually increased to somewhere off the chart.

Positive psychology and your happiness

Recently I heard some research in the positive psychology field shared by neuroscientist Susan Pierce Thompson. This data is from studies with what are considered the happiest people in the world. It confirms that my current state of happiness is because I’m doing a lot of things right. As I studied these factors, I also saw that there were ways I could improve my life and set better goals for even more happiness.

It became clear to me that all of us can make better choices that lead us towards what some people boldly state is our purpose in life: to be happy!

Here are the 7 keys to happiness found by researchers in the positive psychology field

1.  Meditation which activates the left pre-frontal cortex (PFC) of the brain, where positive emotions live. Depressed people have over activation in the right PFC- where negative emotions live.

 

 
2.  Human Connection:  it’s the biggest lever-mover – marriage, friendships, playtime.  In fact, married people have an initial spike in their happiness and afterwards reset their baseline at a higher level of happiness.
 
 

 

 

 

3.  Touch: close intimate connection to others is the #1 predictor of wellbeing. (In a study of baby monkeys who were given the choice to have access to milk from a wire mother monkey or no milk but a furry mother monkey, they overwhelmingly forfeited their food for the comfort of a furry snuggle.) Nurturing touch soothes us to our core and helps us know we are not alone.

 
4.  Health promoting habits:  Yes, indeed, if you are eating well, getting some exercise, are sleeping enough as well as resting when needed, you are much happier.  It seems simple but many of us struggle with attending adequately to these basic physiological needs.
 
5.  Meaningful work:  This occurs in the place where your skills & talents overlap with your passion and interests. I believe the important ingredient in this formula is also the sense of being of service in what you do.  Our passion ought to make us feel like we are giving to our communities in a way that makes a positive difference, whether that’s in the field of finance, social work, or law enforcement, etc.

 

6.  Spirituality: which is not religion – in fact, it can even be, although it doesn’t have to be, the opposite of religion.  It has more to do with a feeling of being a part of the greater whole – that is both intelligent and compassionate. When you feel a part of the omniscient power that flows through all of life, then you are never completely alone – and always connected (see #2).

 

7.  Ambition:  it turns out that striving makes some people happy.  It is a personality trait called ‘achievement orientation’ and involves hobbies, intellectual growth, etc. If this applies to you then “excellence’ matters and you have a drive to continually challenge yourself.  The Latin term for this is “meliora”, which means, ‘ever-better’. 

 

 

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Your happiness strengths

As you read this list, what do you resonate with the most?  In other words, what are you already doing that is making you a happier person?  Is there a way you might increase the frequency and/or intensity of those items for greater effect? For example, I am a very ambitious person so I was thrilled to find that item on the list. It validated something important and provided permission to expand this aspect of my life, knowing it rewarded me in a very positive and fundamental way.

Your happiness deficits

There may be items on the list that you don’t do or that you used to do but don’t anymore and you can recognize the difference it makes in your life. Noticing what is missing from your life might hold the key to your next level of wellbeing?

Some of you may feel stuck in unfulfilling jobs, driven by the fear that something terrible will happen if you reach for more meaningful work. Others of you will find that your close, personal relationships need fortifying or revamping. And others of you will have learned early in life that human touch was hurtful or even dangerous and you haven’t been able to break the bondage of those experiences in order to be nurtured by others.

Whatever your missing link is, ask yourself if you are willing to risk adding one more ingredient to your daily routine in the service of greater happiness.

Focus & resilience

It turns out that people who set goals tend to be more successful in their endeavours. It’s because it requires both focus and resilience and these attributes help us in so many ways.

You have the main part to play in your own happiness. Sure, trauma and tragedy impacts us and yet, if we decide to move through it and beyond, happiness is waiting for us on the other side.

Please feel free to share your insights below  – I’d love to hear what you think of the list and what is next for you.

Blessings,

p.s. – Your happiness is important for more than one reason. You matter – we all matter. As each of us becomes the change we want to see in the world, the world becomes a brighter, better place to be. Make the commitment today to do one thing to increase your happiness.  

If you or someone you know or love is struggling with addiction, trauma or relationship problems don’t hesitate to contact us.  We are here for you.

About 

Sue Diamond Potts, M.A., is the Founder and Director of the Good Life Therapy Centre which focuses on helping couples and individuals create loving relationships in the aftermath of addiction and trauma.
If you would like help, please call our office to set up a time to meet with one of our outstanding therapists @ 604-682-1484 or Click Here to Contact Us.

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