I watched a documentary on Netflix this week titled “Happy.” It was good medicine for me following the slump I found myself in around the holidays. I apologize for the melancholy to those of you that read that New Year’s blog, but this is me, my blog, for better or for worse. I’m basically a fairly happy person, but I’m not so evolved as to always be able to rise above negative emotions.
So I wallowed for a few days and then resurfaced and watched this amazing documentary that my oldest daughter recommended. Hopefully you, my readers, will take the time and effort to watch this movie for yourselves, but I’ll share here some of the highlights just in case.
What is it that makes some people happy and other’s not?
Well it turns out that 50% of happiness is genetic. We each come equipped with a set point of happiness. Even when faced with adversity, people who are naturally happier, rebound quicker and return to the happy set point.
10% of happiness comes from external circumstance. This is the happiness that comes from winning the lottery or receiving a bonus at work or having someone compliment you. Something outside of you happens which increases happiness. This is often temporary.
The other 40% of a person’s happiness comes from intentional behavior. This comes from things you can do on purpose to bring about increased levels of happiness. Some of the things listed in the documentary that are known to increase happiness are:
- Being in nature and listening to the stillness
- Exercise! It raises dopamine levels (dopamine is a neurotransmitter which makes you FEEL happiness)
- Being in the zone, going with the flow. This happens when doing something you enjoy so much that you lose yourself in it, forgetting everything else. (people who experience flow on a regular basis are the happiest. )
- Responding to adversity. Sometimes spending a little time in darkness makes you appreciate the light so much more.
- Close, supportive family and friends. It doesn’t just take a village to raise a child, it takes a community to raise ourselves! A sense of community with positive social bonding and cooperation can raise dopamine levels to that which surpasses anti-depressant medication
- Spirituality and feeling connected to the universe. Being able to think about the world outside yourself, seeing the bigger picture and feeling the oneness of all life is a beautiful way to increase happiness.
The whole point here is that there isn’t much you can do about your biology, and sometimes there isn’t much you can do about your external circumstance, but you can always CHOOSE happiness. It is so much more simple than we think it is.
Meditating on compassion or even repeating positive affirmations actually changes your brain structure which can be objectively documented through brain imaging.
Louise Hay has some truly beautiful affirmations. I found one this morning which I think is perfectly appropriate for this theme and as we start a new outlook for 2013.
“This year I do the mental work for positive change. I know that until I make inner changes and am willing to do some mental work, nothing ‘out there’ is going to change. The only thing I need to change is a thought – just a thought. So, this year, I think of all the positive things I can do for myself. I think only positive thoughts. I affirm what I want each day as soon as I wake up. I say “Out” to any unwanted negative thinking. I am grateful for all the good in my life. In this way, I do mental work that affects positive change.”
Good advice! I’m going to print it out and put it by my alarm clock so I can read it each morning.
There are certainly worse habits to have.