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Happiness Is In Our Hands

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The technical definition of happiness is “the state of being happy.” What does it mean to be in a state of happiness? How does one feel? Is it possible for everyone to experience this state? These are the kinds of questions every human ponders during some point of their life. There are varying views on what happiness is, how one can attain it, and if there are other factors playing a role in determining one’s happiness level. Aristotle came up with his own idea of what happiness is. He argued that “happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence”.

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The goal of every human is to attain the highest level of happiness possible. Everyone has their own unique set point, which is the amount of happiness that they are genetically predisposed to. However, Americans today tend to believe that the set-point is the sole determining factor when it comes to how happy one can be. Luckily, the set-point is responsible for only fifty percent of your happiness, which leaves ten percent to circumstances and forty percent in our own hands. You can take advantage of the forty percent by working on what you think, how you behave, and what goals you set. The way people think about certain situations affects their overall outlook on life. Having a negative attitude about an experience will only make you feel worse. For example, if a student does poorly on an exam and thinks “I’m going to fail this class,” that way of thinking will instill a self-fulfilling prophecy that will ultimately lead them to failure. Instead, that student should think of the low score as a way to improve and as a lesson to be learned. Consider the study performed on teenagers from Choram high school. In this experiment, students were divided up into an experimental group and a control group that also included a pre-test and a post-test. The students were analyzed through the usage of a questionnaire that consisted of closed questions. The goal was to determine if positive thinking training actually reduces conflict and increases happiness and self-efficacy in students. To sum up, it was determined that the average happiness score in subjects from the experimental group, who were taught positive thinking, was higher than the scores from the participants in the control group by a little over sixty percent. To put it bluntly, “thoughts have a profound impact on human behavior and mental and emotional states”.

Positive thinking is an attitude where an individual believes in positive results. You can improve your positive thinking by having more gratitude and by focusing on changing the domineering thoughts that run through your mind. A great way to show your gratitude is by thinking of at least three things every day that you value. This activity will rewire your brain to look at the positive aspects instead. Personally, the majority of my negative thoughts involve school work and relationships. I have learned to not allow these thoughts to affect how I feel for the rest of the day because it serves no purpose other than ruining my mood. However, if I do well on an exam I allow that to make me feel happier and fulfilled because it’s an affirmative thought. Aside from altering your thinking patterns, it’s important to behave in ways that make you feel accomplished and energized. People who feel accomplished and energized frequently are happier. Everyone has their own passions and hobbies that keep them physically and mentally energized. Some hobbies can be running, meditating, volunteering, and journaling. Running increases endorphins, which are hormones that reduce pain and boost pleasure. Meditating has been associated with quality sleep, generosity to others, less anxiety, improved physical health, and cognitive clarity. When individuals experience these things as a result of meditation, they ultimately feel happier. Another way happiness can be increased in a person can be by giving a helping hand to a neighbor who needs help taking out their trash. Random acts of kindness and volunteering, which is when an individual offers to help without anything in return, is a good reminder that you have a mission that involves something more than yourself.

Moreover, it emphasizes the importance of being grateful in life. Lastly, journaling serves as a way to release all your feelings and thoughts onto paper. Insead of sharing them with an individual, it may be easier to write them down for some individuals. Aside from creating feelings of gratefulness, volunteering and other activities can get individuals into the state of flow. Flow is a term, often used in positive psychology, that is similar to the popular concept of “being in the zone.” When an individual experiences flow frequently, they are more likely to be happy. The less often an individual feels flow in a situation, the lower their chances are of reaching optimal levels of happiness. As an illustration, Gretchen Rubin came up with a handful of lifestyle changes that enhanced her quality of life. Gretchen is a considerably happy individual who has a lot to be thankful for. She developed her Happiness Project because she wanted to live the best life she possibly could. Among many things, she decided to go to sleep earlier, exercise better, and declutter her environment. These changes made a difference in the bigger picture. By changing her way of life, feelings of happiness came her way naturally. Other than altering her environment in order to feel a natural difference, she also pretended to be energetic by doing activities she didn’t feel like performing. For example, one afternoon she was so exhausted but decided to feel energetic by coming up with a game to play with her children that didn’t involve her sitting on the couch. Surprisingly, by playing this new game she got a boost of energy. The more accepted belief by common people is that a feeling triggers a physiological state or behavior. However, there’s evidence and even a theory, called the James-Lange theory, supporting the tremendous difference a smile can make on an individual’s mood. “Studies show that by acting as if you feel more energetic, you can become more energetic.

Sometimes it’s beneficial to “fake it till you make it.” One core example of working on how we behave, that stands out from the other behaviors, is setting honest goals. Many times in life, we don’t expect some of the outcomes of our actions whether good or bad. Just like how a pill can cure one disease, it can also cause other health ailments. Similarly, there are more benefits to goals other than getting work done. By planning out your day, you give greater meaning to your life. There are two types of goals: extrinsic and intrinsic. Intrinsic goals are the goals that make a person feel happier because they relate to their personal development. It is often said that extrinsic goals, such as wealth or fame, is what thwarts feelings of content.

Many Americans presume, “if I have more money or if I lose weight” then I will be happier. However, these superficial wants won’t make you feel happier. There is a deep reason as to why someone wants more money or wants to lose weight. It may be because they are lacking confidence or affection. Consequently, it’s important to find the hidden or subconscious motive for setting that particular goal. Martha Beck argues it’s critical to use adjectives when setting goals, rather than nouns and verbs. When you use an adjective, to set your goals you are identifying what you truly are looking for. The wrong language “frequently leads to either outright failure or the kind of success that doesn’t make people nearly as happy as they expect”. For instance, if the desire to lose weight comes from low confidence. It’s important to set your goal as, “I want to feel more confident today.” This will ultimately help you accomplish your actual desire.

Teaching yourself how to be happier takes a whole lifetime. An individual shouldn’t expect to feel like a changed person after a week of following these suggestions. Just like how it takes time and continual effort for someone to become brawny, it takes time and continual effort to become a happier version of yourself. By working on what you think, how you behave, and what goals you set for yourself you are making good use out of the forty percent remaining. It’s very reassuring to know that there’s so much that we can do to create better lives for ourselves. Moreover, by creating the best version of ourselves, we are also making a difference in the lives of the people around us. Individuals prefer to be around happier people because they seem to be more cooperative, less self-centered, and more willing to help others. You can make happiness a choice today and every day.

11 February 2020

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