In my daily life I see all kinds of people. In the clinic I see many people with various health matters. Of course, many of these problems are founded on physical issues. But, at least 80% of their health problems are related to lifestyle issues, meaning these people do not have hardware problems, they have software problems. These software problems are usually related to diet, lifestyle and stress. As I travel around North America lecturing, I also interact with many different types of people, and most of them are asking the same questions about how to improve their life. Even though these, too, on the surface come down to an overall statement of, ‘I want to be happy.’
So of course what I do is ask both of these groups, what would it take to make them feel better? They feel that they would be happier if they lost some weight, or if they had more energy. Maybe they would feel happier if they were not so stressed in their relationships. They would feel happier if they could exercise more, but because they have to work so late they can’t. The classic of course is that they will feel happier once the economy gets better. “Just wait till I win the lottery, and then I will happy.”
It doesn’t take long to realize that there are a lot of unhappy people out there, and their real goal it not the weight, energy, health or financial solution; it is that they just want to be happy. So, let’s look at bypassing all of the health problems and go straight to the happiness issue, and see if this will resolve both the health and financial issue.
When was the last time you can say you where really Happy?
Over the next several Blogs I am going to look at the idea of happiness and explore what people throughout history, as well as modern psychology and medicine, have to say about happiness and how we can better obtain it. Hey, it might be winning the lottery — who knows? The first place we will start though is to see what people think happiness is.
If we go to Wikipedia we get this answer:
“Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.”
It is quite interesting to see what many different people feel happiness is. Here are some of the more famous quotes about what happiness is:
“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” ― Aristotle (330 BCE)
“Happiness depends upon ourselves.”― Aristotle (330 BCE)
“I am a happy camper so I guess I’m doing something right. 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.” ― Henry David Thoreau (1854)
“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson (1886)
“Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.” ― Mark Twain (1880’s)
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” ― Mahatma Gandhi (1930)
“It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.” ― Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936)
“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” ― Albert Camus (1940’s)
“The most important thing is to enjoy your life—to be happy—it’s all that matters.” ― Audrey Hepburn (1960’s)
“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” ― Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)
“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” ― George Burns (1984)
“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” ― Dalai Lama XIV (1998)
“I believe compassion to be one of the few things we can practice that will bring immediate and long-term happiness to our lives. I’m not talking about the short-term gratification of pleasures like sex, drugs or gambling (though I’m not knocking them), but something that will bring true and lasting happiness. The kind that sticks.” ― Dalai Lama XIV (1998)
“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love (2006)
Buddha also used an analogy comparing the mind to a wild elephant. Jonathan Haidt has perfected this analogy in his book The Happiness Hypothesis. He states that the conscious mind is like a rider on an elephant, having some influence over the elephant, but really only when it makes the elephant happy. Notice he put the rider closer to the front than I do. I guess that is why his book is so popular and is used in many Universities as a text.
Over the next few blogs, we are going to see if the rider and the elephant can ride in harmony enough to enhance happiness. Using research from Haidt’s book and looking at what the Dali Lama says in the Art of Happiness as guides, we will see if our trek on the back of an elephant can help us tease a formula for creating Happiness into our lives.
But before I leave, I would be amidst to not list a great Tedx talk by: Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work. I know you will enjoy this video as everyone else has. He gives us some nice statistic in a very entertaining way. Be prepared to laugh!