Don’t Worry, Be Happy
The Quality of Your Life May Depend Upon It
The 2020s has been one of the most stressful decades in history. “American happiness hits record lows” touted a CNN headline. Many Americans are displeased with what is going on in their daily lives, in our nation, and in our politics. Gallup has been asking Americans how they are feeling for the past two decades. This year, just 38 percent say they’re satisfied. That number is down from 48 percent in 2020 and 41 percent in 2021.
Feeling bad is a reflection of reality these days, you say. Isn’t it a waste of time and money trying to change the way I feel? Not according to the Wall Street Journal, which published an article stating that because it’s tough to keep workers satisfied these days, companies are investing in employees’ happiness and are hiring happiness officers.
Thinking about a happiness officer gave me a laugh—then I discovered a former editor of mine had transformed into a happiness coach. “Instead of looking outside yourself, try focusing inward. Trust your intuition,” said Mary Frances Daly (email@example.com), who has a certification in positive psychology and has completed neuroscience courses.
The serious emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical repercussions of not being happy were enough to cause her to shift her area of concentration from mindset coaching to happiness coaching. “I was in a contentious divorce. I had a history of six consecutive miscarriages, was dealing with an out-of-control son, and had a father sick with Alzheimer’s who eventually died.”
She wanted to get happy and help others change their perspective as well. “Happiness is not about being happy all the time,” said Daly. “It’s about accepting your feelings and feeling them. It’s not toxic positivity. It’s learning how to sit with your feelings then let them go.”
Because Daly has a science background (an undergraduate degree in chemistry and biology) she loves how the study of happiness is data driven. She noted scientific ways to increase happiness in 30 days have been demonstrated in case studies.
Why Get Happy?
The connection between happiness and health has been long studied. Happiness may help lower your risk for cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure, enable better sleep, improve diet, and reduce stress. “The real casualty of COVID is happiness,” Daly said. “Fear and happiness cannot co-exist.”
People who are happy much of the time build stronger coping skills and emotional resources. Positive feelings increase resilience which helps people better manage stress and bounce back better when faced with setbacks. People who report having a positive state of well-being are more likely to eat well and exercise regularly.
Daly said that for every negative thought it takes five positive ones to make an imprint on our brain. Ideally, the happiness chemicals—serotonin, dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin—will leave an imprint, not adrenaline and cortisol, which are linked to high blood pressure, weight gain, heart issues, and the fight/flight reaction.
Tips on Getting Happy
Becoming happier doesn’t happen overnight. It’s takes about six months to rewire your brain, said Daly. Try writing a list of things or events you appreciate each day. It can change the way you view the world moving forward.
Stop listening to, watching, or reading anything that reduces happiness for you (the news, complaining friends, a depressing book or movie).
Surround yourself with people who like to laugh. Children laugh 20-30 times more often per day than adults. Smiling and laughing release serotonin.
Learn to listen to your gut. “If it’s not a ‘Hell Yes!’ then it’s a no.”
Stop believing what others think of you and learn to neutralize your own judgments. Daly calls herself a “recovering people pleaser.” She now embraces the philosophy, “What you think of me is none of my business.”
Seeking happiness is not just for baby boomers or retired hippies. According to the New York Times, since Yale cognitive scientist Laurie Santos began teaching her class “Psychology and the Good Life” in 2018, it has become one of the school’s most popular courses. Nearly a quarter of the undergraduate student body has enrolled. Her course was so popular Santos created a podcast series, The Happiness Lab.
Personally, I’ve spent years rewiring my brain from a ‘what is wrong with me’ and ‘I’m not good enough’ upbringing to seeing the good in me and my life. I have been told I’m a changed woman. Guess what? I’m happier than I’ve ever been. That’s because I’ve learned to be happy with myself. I try never to hold anyone or anything else responsible for my happiness. It’s a work in progress but I’m getting better all the time. Happiness is an inside job, just like love. ▼
Pattie Cinelli is a health and fitness professional and journalist. She focuses on holistic ways to stay healthy, get well, and connect with your true self. Email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.