We all want to be happy. According to the World Happiness Report, the United States dropped significantly since 2007, from 3rd to now 19th among 34 countries. It seems as though the Nordic countries are the happiest countries on the planet. In my search to learn more I found a central theme, it is the human things that matter. John Helliwell in his report in the Los Angeles Times wrote, “The material can stand in the way of the human.”
This got me thinking, how much does material “stuff” impact our happiness, or can it get in the way of being truly happy? Happiness as been scientifically studied for decades. Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky suggests that perhaps 50 percent of our happiness is determined by factors like our genes and our temperament. The other half is determined by a combination of our circumstances, over which we have limited control, and our attitudes and actions, over which we have a great deal of control. According to Lyubomirsky’s research, the three factors that seem to have the greatest influence on increasing our happiness are our ability to reframe our situation more positively, our ability to experience gratitude, and our choice to be kind and generous.
Reframing our situation- Reframing is simply the "frame" in which a person perceives events, which can change the meaning the person associates with the events. This is not ignoring or avoiding the painful experiences, it requires courage to look at experiences differently.
Practicing gratitude – The key is practice- setting aside time each day to be grateful, even (and especially) when things are not great. You may find that the practice of recognition, acknowledgement and appreciation for others and for life’s situations improves your quality of life as well.
Choosing to be kind and generous. Being kind and generous feels good. Did you know that doing nice things for others boosts your serotonin? Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that gives us the feeling of satisfaction and wellbeing. Most of the anti-depressant medications work by increasing the amount of serotonin available to your brainand assisting our bodies in its absorption. This means that doing nice things for other people changes your brain in ways that make you feel better.
Henry David Thoreau so beautifully wrote, “Happiness is like a butterfly, the more you chase it, the more it will evade you, but if you notice the other things around you, it will gently come and sit on your shoulder.” At Sioux Falls Psychological, we understand that everyone’s journey is valued and unique. We meet you where you are, offering hope. To schedule an appointment or learn more about telemental health options, call 605-334-2696.