Betty W. Phillips, Ph.D., Psychology
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Happiness Now

 

 

 

                                                      HAPPINESS NOW!

 

If you were not born happy, you may be waiting for happiness… when I get married, when I have a great job… or you may have all those things and still be waiting… for something else… for what? It's time to take action. Some people are born with positive genes while others are born predisposed to dark moods; you could call these positive or negative set points. Researchers feel that about 50% of these set points are genetic. Of the remaining 50%, only 10% of our happiness set point is determined by life circumstances such as jobs or wealth. Today we're going to discuss the remaining 40% of your happiness set point which you can control. This 40% is determined by your happiness habits, your thoughts, words, feelings and actions. As you come to understand your happiness or unhappiness habits, you can take action now!

 

What do I mean by happiness? It's not pleasure. Pleasures are certainly enjoyable but ephemeral. I love ice cream but when I'm through all I have left are excess calories. I mean deep inner peace, contentment, fulfillment and joy. When you attain this abiding sense of inner peace, you will of course still experience negative and painful emotions, but you will be able to cope with them in a way that does not destroy your sense of well-being.

 

"Happy for No Reason," Marcie Shimoff, Free Press, 2008, is worth purchasing and studying as you begin your happiness practice. Marcie herself was not born with a positive happiness set point, and so she decided to find and interview 100 deeply happy people. In this book she reports her findings with an emphasis upon helping you learn these "happiness habits." Marcie does recognize that it can be difficult to change your set point and that concerted effort over time is necessary. The Declaration of Independence tells us that we are entitled to the pursuit of happiness.  In Jefferson’s day pursuit meant practicing and making a habit of happiness. You've probably noticed that, when we do get something we've been desiring, the thrill declines fairly rapidly and we're usually much less happy than we thought we would be. That's why Marcie's main conclusion is that well-being is not dependent upon finding external reasons to feel happy.

 

An important basis for happiness/unhappiness is expansion versus contraction. Happiness is expansion. You can see this for yourself when you throw your arms open wide, smiling to the world. You'll feel light and open. In contrast, hunch over, head down, frowning; you'll feel anxious, tight and agitated. When stress happens, as it usually does, you can move toward happiness by opening your posture and your arms, taking a deep breath and smiling at the world or yourself in the mirror.

 

Marcie groups her findings into seven areas, beginning with taking ownership of your happiness. In other words, being happy is up to you, with the possibility of 40% improvement over your genetic makeup  Research has found that people can learn to develop happiness habits by reading and practicing the new learnings. I'll mention one of the happiness principles here: "Don't believe everything you think." Most of us have an internal critic component of our thinking that judges, worries, complains and blames us for our miseries. We do have a choice as to what we think. We can focus in on our positive thoughts and develop habits of optimistic rather than pessimistic thinking. We can make life-affirming choices rather than march to the drummer of critical comments from parents and teachers in our childhood.

 

Happiness Now Addendum

 

I'll mention other issues covered in this book. Marcie Shimoff discussed her conclusions as to the happiness habits of 100 people into seven areas, not only describing each area, but also providing concrete suggestions for your follow-up practice. You may already incorporate some of these suggestions into your daily lives, while others will be new to you. Since much of this information is tried and true, I've also written articles on this website pertaining to these issues. In this addendum I'll  cross-reference the discussion to articles already on my website.

 

Let's begin with the other articles in the Reading Room. The first series of articles are general articles on achieving happiness. The Good Life: Positivity article describes important research which could benefit your search for a positive life. I especially recommend the Loving Kindness Meditation. Research has shown that just a few minutes daily using this meditation will definitely improve your happiness as well as your openness and compassion to others. Lead With Your Heart describes important information on the heart-based source of happiness. Further on down the list, look at the article When the Going Gets Tough to help you deal with the happiness blockers of guilt and shame. The articles on Self Esteem will help you plan a strategy to silence your internal critical dialogue which interferes with happiness. Look at the articles on Mind Over Mood and Double Your Problems to give you strategies for positive thinking and avoiding negativity. Later on down the list you'll find a number of articles on happiness, optimism and self care which explain some of the important underpinnings of positive mood states.

 

Also check into the Advice Line Articles. Many of these articles concern ways to avoid stress which obviously interferes with happiness. Take a look at the article Do Your Thoughts Matter. Obviously they do matter in maintaining a positive outlook. I'll also call your attention to the article about A Complaint Free World. Much of our internal dialogue is whining and complaining which does nothing to solve problems and only increases negativity and unhappiness. The next series of stress management articles specifically addresses resources and strategies for happiness including positive thinking, creating success in your life and keeping a smile on your face.

 

When you get a chance, read the other articles in these two sections of the website. My goal as a therapist and life coach is always to promote that glorious calm inner peace we call happiness and help you cope with the many problems and life stresses which arise to interfere with a happy life. These articles are my gifts to you!