Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life...."

The word 'happiness' would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness."-Carl Jung       

      What are the habits of happy resilient people? Strange question? Not really considering we live on a planet where cynicism is applauded and pessimism is the accepted norm. And I understand the reasoning. Injustice and tragic circumstances are inflicted upon innocent people who did absolutely nothing wrong. We are all exposed, we absorb the violence and horrific stories of the world stage. We get angry, we cry, we question and we reflect. The powerful play must go on.  How we choose to process and use emotions and information to move forward  can set us apart. On a scale of positive to negative we may encounter the full range of emotions on a daily basis.  But what makes some human beings consistently more positive than others? What do most optimists have in common?  Earlier this morning, I read an article based on research by American psychologist and author  Dr. Marty Seligman, author of Authentic Happiness. Seligman has penned over twenty books and 200 articles on motivation, optimism, pessimism and personality.

 There are numerous traits that happy people share. According to Seligman, clinical psychologists and researchers the three major factors contributing and sustaining happiness are made up of pleasure, engagement, and meaning. It involves both daily positive emotions and a universal sense that life is worthwhile. Most importantly, people can accurately define and report their own levels of happiness. Do you consider yourself  positive and content?  Answer the questions below to discover if you are creating enough space in your life to allow real happiness to flourish.

Do you appreciate simple pleasures? Do you love to listen to children laughing on a playground? Do you relish the feeling of a cool autumn wind on your skin? Do you drink in the bright beautiful gold, orange and sunshine yellow of a glorious fall day? Do you get a sense of awe walking your dog, observing how they stop, sniff and inhale the scent of fragrant rose bushes? Being in the moment and fully embracing the simple treasures of every day life is a sign of a truly happy person.

Do you laugh? Do you have a sense of humor? Do you have the ability to laugh at your self or chuckle over the absurdity and irony of life? Laughter is a strong emotional release that relieves tension and stress but it also allows us to cope with the more serious issues of daily existence It puts our situation into perspective. If you need more laughter in your life, watch a funny movie, go to a comedy club, listen to your favorite comedian.

Do you love music? Most people can't even imagine life without the power of music. Those that worship its pure expressive force know the incredible effect music has on mood, memory and emotions. Happy people love and enjoy music. They may even make music, play an instrument or just sing out loud in the shower.

Do you look on the bright side? Are you an optimist? Do you anticipate a more positive outcome over a negative one? Do you see the silver lining rather than just the rain clouds? Optimists are happier simply because they change their thought patterns. All of us have the ability to do this. Where a pessimist may think, "this is going to be horrible"  an optimist thinks "what can I do to learn  and make the best from this?"

Do you listen? Do you ignore the world around you while you talk on your cell phone? When someone asks you a question do you  seem surprised and say "What? I didn't hear you?" Do your friends, spouse, children or co-workers get annoyed with you because you promised to do something and later admit you actually weren't listening? Why do happy people listen? Listening shows respect for others. It means you are actually thinking of something besides your self and your own needs. This leads to another closely related question.

Do you give to others?  Research studies such as "Americans Changing Lives" have proven that people who volunteer or contribute to charity organizations are happier than those who don't.  According to documentation submitted to the long term project people who think about the needs of others increase their own mental and physical health. Giving and thinking of others increases empathy and awareness.

Do you let yourself lose track of time? Most of us have heard the expression "lost in the moment" or being "in the zone".  Being absorbed in a creative, challenging or rewarding endeavor can help us lose track of time and help us gain our "flow". Happy people seek the sensation of being caught up in the moment and forgetting their self-consciousness.

Do you unplug? Happy people know that in order to give to others they have to take time for themselves. Recharging batteries isn't just for cell phones and computers. Turning off and tuning in to a quiet, peaceful place inside your mind will make you happier in the long run. You will be able to cope with the day to day stress of giving to others, feeling less drained.

Do you avoid small talk?  Happy people are less likely to gossip or spread rumors about others. They simply don't feel the need to fill up a perfectly lovely silence with meaningless chatter. Happy people are more apt to give positive affirmations than shell out negative self-defeating smack talk. If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all is the motto.

Other important factors closely related to personal happiness are spirituality, exercise, sleep habits and going outside to enjoy nature. It's important to remember that happy people are not ignorant, naïve or hiding their true emotions. Most "happy" people have known great sadness, understand tragic loss, grief and have even experienced bouts of severe depression. Optimists have been successful in turning their pain and negativity into courage and positive gratitude. Happy people seem to have a sense they are connected to something larger than themselves.

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