Dr. Rachell N. Anderson
A glance at the self-help section of any bookstore and you’ll find many books that promise to help you find happiness. Maybe that suggests that happiness is a national obsession. But we haven’t always been that way. Two Hundred years ago, books in the United States talked about a happy nation versus a happy person. This shows there’s been a shift in the meaning of happiness for Americans. In many other countries, that shift hasn’t happen. I suggest that what we do is not for ourselves alone, however, what is good for the country is ultimately good for the individual.
According to David Cameron, a conservative politician, “It's time we admitted that there's more to life than money, and it's time we focused not just on GDP, but on GWB - general well-being. Well-being can't be measured by money or traded in markets. It can't be required by law or delivered by government. It's about the beauty of our surroundings, the quality of our culture, and above all the strength of our relationships. I don’t know if Cameron was thinking about himself or the nation but I believe as Abraham Lincoln was credited with saying "Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be."
The field of Positive Psychology has highlighted the importance of subjective well-being, which is the general sense people have of their good feelings and life satisfaction. Here, happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but of deeply appreciating what we have. We all know that happiness is fleeting. You can be happy one minute and unhappy the next. But that’s not to say you are unhappy in general. So happiness is about letting go of unhelpful perceptions and thought patterns. It’s a sense of peace with oneself, with one's connection in the world. This suggests you are relating to other people in a healthy way and finding and pursuing your purpose in life.
According Art Markman, Ph.D. in his blog Ulterior Motives “A happy person is not a person who’s always in a good situation, but rather a person who always has a good attitude in every situation.” Further, Markman suggest “Allow yourself more moments of awe and wonder and passion and grace. Don’t let anyone’s ignorance, hate, drama or negativity stop you and don’t sweat to small stuff. Live simply. Love generously. Speak truthfully. Work diligently.” Again, this focus is on what the individual must see, do and be in order to be happy.
So stop looking for reasons to be unhappy. Focus on the things you have and the reasons you should be happy. Positivity changes everything.
When we focus from ourselves to the other, it’s about our relationships. For example: Good relationships help to heal all wounds. With frequent attention and affection our relationships flourish, and we as individuals grow stronger. And lift others up with your kindness. Three things define you: Your patience when you have nothing, your attitude when you have everything, and who you help whenever you’re able.
What’s A Person To Do?
To make these recommendations, I consulted a book called The Four Agreements which contained words of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882). I paraphrased his words using an active style that’s more prevalent in my day than in his.
The purpose of life is not just to be happy, but also to be helpful, to be honorable, to be kind and compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well..)
1. Be Impeccable With Your Words
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
2. Take Nothing Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
3. Ask rather Than Assume
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
4. Do Your Best
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret. When you improve yourself, you ultimately improve the nation.
With these things, I bet before long, you’ll find yourself to be a much happier person.
Dr. Rachell Anderson is a native of Tunica, a licensed Clinical Psychologist, a Professor Emeritus and author. She taught at the University of Illinois and ran a Private Clinical Practice in Springfield, Illinois for more than years. She now lives and writes in Tunica, Mississippi. Check out her website at WWW.drrachellanderson.com for more articles and books.