Hi, my name is Xiomara and my goal is to be a Happiness Hero. A happiness Hero is someone who spreads happiness everywhere they go, someone who brings joy and happiness to every interaction, someone who always has the purpose of making people feel great (yes, even when handling a difficult conversation).
This post is the cornerstone of this blog:
The science of Happiness: What is happiness and Why does that matter?
In the last year I’ve gone through an intellectual and spiritual journey of understanding “The science of Happiness”. I thought once I understand all the elements involved, then I can somehow crack the code and create an easy-to-follow system that helps many other people be happier by giving them one simple activity to do each day, as well as providing simple advice to avoid the obstacles or thoughts that reduce our happiness levels.
Although I deeply believe from my own experience that it is possible to be happier without understanding the science behind (as I have completely transformed my life!), I also believe that I can serve many more people if I have a deeper knowledge of the main theories and research on positive emotions, as this cutting edge knowledge is here to help us all be happier.
As part of this journey I’ve been studying the science of happiness with thousands of people around the world. Some of them are social scientist, psychologist, researchers, some others are people like you or I, who want to be happier and spread happiness in our circles (family, friends, workplace, community, etc).
Studying happiness was completely ground breaking for me.
Before, I had the idea that the pursue of happiness was somehow very selfish, that people should focus their energy on more noble objectives…
I was feeling awkward thinking that I might look like a silly child who only wants to be happy!
But now after reviewing decades of scientific research on the profound impact of happiness on own body (brain, immune system, longevity), family and communities, I believe that there is nothing more important than being the Happiest version of yourself Now (not in the future when you get the promotion, the sexy partner, the baby or the new house). That was when HappiestNow was born!
There have been many different views on Happiness through the history of humanity, but it seems that it always involve two areas:
- Our own pleasure or the delight in an experience (think about travelling, reading, receiving a present, enjoying great food, going on a date, cycling around with a beautiful landscape, etc).
- Bringing good to other people (Charity, buying a gift for your loved ones, raising moral children, achieving your team objectives, etc).
Thought leaders from the history have agreed on some extent too:
- Confucius – Bring the good things of others to completion.
- Buddhism and HH the Dalai Lama – A great emphasis is placed on compassion, as happiness is found in the actions that lift the welfare of as many people as possible.
So instead of thinking about Happiness as a selfish aim that only benefits you. Think about happiness as being a source of love, positive energy and hope for everybody around you. Happiness in a fundamental sense comes from enhancing the welfare of others and orienting your attention to other people is one of the easier pathways to happiness.
How do you define Happiness?
The first step to be happier is to reflect about our own unique definition of happiness, now we know it is not just about yourself but also about us (or how you can bring more happiness and joy to your circle). But is happiness a temporary state affected by the environment? Many people seem to agree that happiness is a non-durable state that appears in certain moments of your life (when you’ve have a balanced situation and good relations with others) but I firmly believe that this state can be cultivated and prolonged through practice and knowledge.
These are some definitions of happiness that I consider are aligned to my own:
Being in the present without my mind lost in thoughts of the past or worry and anxiety about the future I sense happiness. Joy , compassion, trust, gratitude, acceptance are natural responses from the state of happiness…
The experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.
– Positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky in her 2008 book “The How of Happiness”.
So… what is your unique definition of Happiness?
There is no right or wrong answer, your unique definition of happiness is something that fits your own values, and your own views of a meaningful life.
Please share your own definition of Happiness writing on the comments section at the botton of the page.
Social scientist at the University of California have been exploring what people mean when someone says I am happy, and they have agreed on the 4 areas below.
Is your definition of happiness including these four? I personally tend to focus more on item 3) Emotions:
The feeling of appreciation and gratitude for being alive, somehow this single factor reminds me that I should not take live for granted, living fully present and full of love and happiness is my duty to myself and to the world. -Xio
Well done! So far we all have came up with a definition of happiness that feels good, that is aligned with our values and actions, so let’s move now to the second part of this post:
Why happiness matters?
We all want to be successful under our own terms. Most of the people define their idea of success as having strong relationships with their partners or family, enjoying good health, and having a good business or job that brings enough money to travel and live a comfortable life.
But does happiness lead to sucess? Would it be possible that the single resolution of being happier can help us achieve all of those goals this year?
10 years of scientific research have reported stunning results by comparing the results of the happier ones among us. Although the purpose of this post is to give an overview of the benefits of happiness and encourage you to be happieer! I’d need three lives to go through each study in detail. If you are very interested in the bibliography behind this information please check this paper: Does happiness lead to success or the visit The Science page of my blog to review all the research papers I have consulted so far (Which I do need to tidy up).
Happiness has an strong positive impact on:
- Physical health: Fewer chronic pain conditions, lower likelihood of strokes or diabetes, better chance of survival with cancer, blood pressure and other indicators are looking more robust, happy people have stronger immune system functioning better.
- Social health: With happiness, it comes a greater sense of wellbeing and a richer repertoire of positive emotions. If I am happy I perceive that I’m doing better with my peers, I’m more likely to receive assistance and a trustworthy behaviour from other people, so there are lots of immediate benefits to feeling happy on a daily basis.
- Relationships: The marriage and relationships with your kids or parents improve, you feel more comfortable expressing gratitude and experience a greater feeling of love. This has been corelated with a reduced likelihood of divorce, and a greater sense of fulfillment.
- In the workplace: The happier employees have been ranked in dozens of scientific papers to be the most creative and innovative, those with the greatest feelings of contentment and gratitude become more creative based on self-reporting questionaries. Being happy also has a positive effect on other people’s perceptions, the happier employees are rated by their supervisors as having higher quality of work and are more likely to receive a promotion. For example, If I am feeling happy I am a better negotiator, as I come up with solutions that honor the interests of both sides of the negotiation.
- Friends: Compared with their less happy peers, happier people are more sociable and energetic, more charitable and cooperative, and better liked by others. Not surprisingly then, happier people are more likely to get married and to stay married and to have richer networks of friends and social support.
If you want to be a friends’ magnet, increase your income, be healthier and live a more interesting life, Happiness is your answer.
Furthermore, contrary to Woody Allen’s suggestion in Annie Hall that happy people are “shallow and empty, and . . . have no ideas and nothing interesting to say,” they actually show more flexibility and ingenuity in their thinking and are more productive in their jobs. They are better leaders and negotiators and earn more money. They are more resilient in the face of hardship, have stronger immune systems, and are physically healthier. Happy people even live longer.
– The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, by Sonja Lyubomirsky (Penguin Press, 2007), pp. 24-26.
I hope by now you have realised how important happiness is! In case thaat you need an extra reason these are six ways in which happiness has been linked to good health:
Happiness protects your heart
Happiness strengthens your immune system
Happiness combats stress
Happy people have fewer aches and pains
Happiness combats disease and disability
Happiness lengthens our lives
If you are curious about these results, you can read the full article here.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below, did you find any of this material interesting or perhaps it made you think differently about happiness? I am always happy to read about you and your ideas!.
P.S. My next post will cover a series of practical activities to increase your happiness levels!