Can You Really Achieve Happiness?

My mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘Happy’. They told me that I didn’t understand the assignment and I told them they didn’t understand life. John Lennon 

Most of us would agree that happiness is an important, but often elusive, part of human existence. What is happiness? Is it possible to achieve it? What are the benefits? Are there tools that can help in the pursuit of happiness? These are the key questions humans have been asking for thousands of years.

What is Happiness?
A good way to begin this discussion is to try to define happiness in a way that can be meaningful to everyone. This is clearly a challenge as happiness means different things to each person. But, if we define happiness as “Personal Well Being” (PWB), we begin to get a more universal handle on the concept.

Is it possible to achieve Personal Well Being?
Researchers have long debated whether PWB is a result of nature or nurture – hereditary or environment. We all know people who seem to be born unhappy. That is, they appear to be negative most of the time. We also know people who are the exact opposite. They are more positive and optimistic the majority of the time. Not surprisingly, both nature and nurture appear to play a role in PWB. What comprises PWB? Again, debate exists on this. But, PWB is likely a result of effectively managing mind, body and spirit. What is clear from the research is that all of us have the ability to improve our PWB by developing a conscious effort to do so.

What are the benefits?
Before making a commitment to achieve PWB then, it might be worth a look at some of the benefits. Naomi Simson, RedBalloon, has created a terrific e-book called The Little Red Book of Happy, which I’ve posted below from Slideshare.net. Research cited in her e-book shows that “happy” people are “more resistant to heart disease and stroke, less likely to get colds, and less likely to get type 2 diabetes.” Not only that, studies show that feeling positive about life can contribute to longevity. Naomi cites a study from Shawn Achor at The Dalai Lama Center showing that “happy” people are 39% more likely to live to reach 94 years-of-age.

Are there tools that can help in the pursuit of happiness?
Researchers are confident that PWB is not a result of just one thing. It is much more complicated. That’s why the notion of a “happiness” pill is unrealistic. Even if such a pill existed, the effects would eventually wear off leaving the person back to their “normal” PWB. The tools for a happier life are the same as they have always been – make a conscious effort to balance mind, body, and spirit. The challenge is how to do this in today’s world when stress is rampant. Making time to relax, eat well, exercise, and pray or meditate is not easy. But, the rewards are proven.

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