The Art and Science of Happiness

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 Hello, all! I am currently in Las Vegas for the annual NIRSA (National Intramural and Recreational Sports Association) conference. I will probably delve into that more later, but right now I wanted to speak about a session that I went to yesterday titled The Art and Science of Happiness, presented by Fred Luskin.

I am a firm believer that we are all in control of our own happiness. However, I am also a firm believer that many of us are not properly taught how to deal with many of the situations we are handed in life and that we are not taught the proper skills to truly take control of our own happiness, despite whatever cards we may be dealt. Throughout this post, I would like you to focus on the following two themes:

  1. Happiness is in your control.
  2. Happiness is not tangible.

Happiness is measured and reported in funny ways. For instance, we measure happiness by state. (See below, and click the map if you want more information by it.) These are the state happiness levels from 2011. In the article, Richard Florida (ironic last name, eh?) says “While the happiness of the nation as a whole has dipped somewhat since then, state-level happiness appears more stable.”

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Then, we have happiness measured by job. Although the ‘happiest job’ is one in which the employee makes >$85,000 per year, the author of this specific article says that “We have also noticed that happiness definitely does not align with pay, and once someone’s basic needs are met, the additional money on the job is a nice perk but is not what drives employee happiness.” (Click below to see what other jobs made the happy cut.)

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It is a bit sad to me that happiness is measured in these ways and reported in these ways. The article states that kindergarten teacher  is not one of the happiest jobs. While it may be true that a higher percentage of executive chefs and software engineers are happier than kindergarten teachers, does that mean you cannot be happy as a kindergarten teacher? No. Remember my first theme? Happiness is in your control. So maybe it is not the job that these happy people have. Maybe, in fact, more software engineers just happen to be people who wake up every morning and choose to be happy. Unless we go back and ask each person who took the Gallup survey what they say to themselves in the morning, I guess we will never know. However, I did like the fact that they found that happiness is not necessarily tied to financial success. Second theme? Happiness is not tangible.

Dr. Luskin says that there are certain qualities that separate happier people from less happier people. I have listed these qualities below:

  • For happier people, being happier is “part of their mental way.”
  • Happier people have more self-compassion. For them, failures and limitations are a part of the package, not reasons to cut themselves down.
  • They share experiences with other people, and these experiences are not just bitch sessions. (Although some should be bitch sessions, as those are cathartic and help people bond and learn.)
  • Happier people have a purpose.
  • Happier people savor every moment.

I am going to let you take that in and savor it all (see what I did there?). Take a moment to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I choose to be happier every morning, or do I wake up saying “Oh shit.”
  • What is my purpose?

Until next time!

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