Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The secret of wellbeing

I used to manage the transition from primary to secondary school in the local area. Many times I have talked to parents about their most desired life outcomes for their children.....wealth ?.....good exam passes ?.....a place at university ?....good health ? ....not so !

Adults when asked directly, ‘what do you most want for your child’, invariably answer, ‘I want my son/daughter to be happy’. Despite all the media and material pressures that life throws up, adults still put a huge premium on happiness for their children.

According to Wikipedia, ‘happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being characterised by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.’ As such, happiness is a basic human right. The framers of the US Declaration of Independence deemed that, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" were unalienable rights.

According to scientist Bruno S. Frey, happiness has a bearing on life span. Summarising his research in the journal ‘Science’, Frey reported that happy people live 14% longer, with increased longevity of 7.5 to 10 years.

The weekly online news letter ‘Barking up the Wrong Tree’ recently published five wholesome, tips that are apparently proven to make people happier. These are:

First, show gratitude for the good things you have. This is the most powerful ‘happiness boosting’ activity.

Second, exercise ‘signature strengths’. This means doing what you are good at as often as you can because it brings joy. Exercising signature strengths is why starving artists are happier with their jobs.

Third, spend as much time as possible with people you like. The happiest people are social beings. They cultivate strong relationships. Failure to spend more time with people we love is something most people regret.

Fourth, realise that there are many better things than wealth. Money has minimal effects on happiness.  It does not increase an individual’s moment to moment mood.

Finally give, because giving makes individuals happier than receiving. It creates a ‘feedback loop of happiness’. This includes giving of oneself to help others reach their goals.

For me, the best advice about being happy comes from Psalm 146 in the Bible which says:

“Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.”

Am I happy ? bet !!!
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