So, it’s summertime. The sun is out, birds are singing, the sky is blue; all the beaches in the city explode with people; music festivals appear everywhere you look. And you feel really, really happy, right?
Before answering that question, let’s define happiness as a subjective sense of well-being. You and your happiness are defined entirely by you and your happiness. It’s that simple. There’s no “should” about it. There is only one judge of how happy you are, and that judge is you. After thousands of studies, and many years worth of data, scientists have come up with the very broad definition: Happiness is the experience of positive emotions, of pleasure combined with deeper feelings of meaning and purpose.
For many years, conventional wisdom has convinced us that happiness is little more than the end result of achievement. If I get that job, then I’ll be happy; if I get an A, then I’ll be happy; if my partner does the dishes, I’ll be happy. You can see how this can go: our most basic satisfaction with our lives hinges on external factors over which we often have little or no control. Researchers in the area of positive psychology have discovered that the relationship between happiness and success is indeed causal, but not in the way they expected: success doesn’t make you happy.
This may seem counterintuitive, but believe it or not, it turns out that happiness actually makes you successful. In fact, it is a very reliable predictor of success. You may have an example from your own life of a happy character for whom things always seem to work out, and you wonder why he/she has such a sense of ease around things. The reason is that when you are unhappy or under stress, your body is in fight or flight. This is a profoundly restrictive and narrow range of experience. From that place of sympathetic nervous system stimulation, very little is visible; you are less able to see solutions or come up with new ideas. However, from a mental state of contentment or amusement, you enjoy a sense of ease which allows for a broader range of thoughts and perspectives. New ideas come naturally to someone who has been primed for happiness.
How can you find this state of contentment? Where does happiness come from? How can I get me some?
Happiness is like a snowball rolling down a hill; the more you do it, the bigger it gets. Getting that ball rolling (so to speak) may feel contrived, but is essentially very simple. There are some tricks, and here are a few of my favourites:
Meditate. As little as five minutes a day of mindfulness meditation has a powerful effect on feelings of happiness.
Exercise: This is the number one intervention for basically every single thing. Something as simple as walking for 30 minutes a day can boost mood and improve productivity and a sense of mastery and purpose.
Acts of Kindness: commit to a conscious act of kindness every day. The sense of peace and well-being can last for many days. The world offers countless opportunities to fulfill this suggestion. Pick up garbage in the park on your morning run; hold the elevator; mow or rake your neighbour’s lawn.
Acupuncture: one of the most powerful medicines for increasing endorphins, reducing the sympathetic stress response, and encouraging a subjective sense of well-being, is acupuncture. It relieves pain, improves blood flow, and reduces inflammation. Often patients leave the clinic feeling so blissed-out, we call it the “Acu-buzz”; they float out of the office feeling deeply relaxed. This feeling continues on for many hours or days, leading to a greater sense of calm, centered wellness.
If you have any questions about your specific case or would like more information about acupuncture, please call our Vancouver clinic to book your 15-minute consultation.