On your list of wants and needs, where do you place happiness?
We think of all the things we want to have or think we must have in order to be happy. But do they really make us happy in the long term?
In fact, “things” in general typically leave us wanting, disappointed and dissatisfied after a short period of time.
Being happy is a choice we make on how we want to live.
As we go through life, we form beliefs and worldviews and act upon them. In the process, we can look for the positives or remain focused on what went wrong, what didn’t work out, how bad the world is or how mean people are. We choose our focus and our responses.
Research on the body-brain connection reveals the impact thoughts can have on our overall health. Our thoughts create a chain reaction throughout the mind and body. What we think, believe and say to ourselves has profound physical consequences. If we are hopeful no matter what happens, our body responds in kind. If we allow hopelessness to become the norm, it too has a profound reaction to our health.
Consider your response when you experience an unexpected kindness. One minute you may be feeling depressed and discouraged. Then someone tells you how much you are appreciated and suddenly you experience a lift of spirit and energy. It happens in a flash. What happened?
Do we choose happiness or is it a result of external events? And if we have so much power and control over our happiness, then why are we so unhappy?
If how I respond to life can have such a profound influence, perhaps it is a question each of us needs to explore. Am I happy? If not, why not? What keeps me from being happy? Were there times when I was happy? Was I happy because of work I was enjoying, the people I was around or was it just feeling good about who I am? What would it take for me to maximize my contentment, excitement, and satisfaction on an ongoing basis no matter what happens?
Dan Ariely, Prof of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University, author of “Predictably Irrational – The Hidden Forces that Shape our Decisions”, cites many experiments and studies that show how the expectations we hold about life influence how we experience what is happening. Two people experiencing the same event may experience something totally different based on their expectations rather than what is actually happening.
If our expectations can influence and “shape” our responses predicting the outcome, then holding the expectation that we can be happy regardless of what happens, will have a huge influence on every aspect of our life: physical, mental, spiritual and psychological. When we make a deliberate decision to be happy, it becomes a mindset, an expectation, a belief that we live out in any situation.
It’s not “things” or what we thought we had to have or must have that is the basis for happiness. It is what we tell ourselves we must have in order to be happy.
We choose our expectations and our attitudes. Changing our mindsets can impact every aspect of our being: physical, mental, spiritual and psychological. We can choose to be happy or we can choose to be a victim of whatever is happening at the moment. We can take whatever we are given and create something positive out of it.
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