You see it in movies, TV shows, commercials, local parties and social media platforms. There is this grandiose interpretation of what happiness really means in our society. We have become a culture that’s gotten obsessed with portraying happiness and positivity all the time. Ironically, we are also the most over-medicated, overweight and depressed cohort in US history.
Doesn’t make much sense!
It seems that the more we chase pleasure and the more often we put on the societal mask of happiness, the more depressed and stressed we appear to become.
You’d think that it would be normal to be happy in our first class Western world living where we have access to so many components to build happiness: housing, clean water, sanitation, justice, food, ability to travel, ability to speak freely, vote and access to excellent medical facilities.
Even with all those things, we still deal with massive setbacks and emotional pitfalls. Some people have serious psychological disorders, yet some of us simply have a skewed view of the world due to an untrained mindset.
What is an untrained mindset?
First, we have to talk about our brain. There has been a massive shift in revolution the past 100 years. Technology has outpaced the way our brain has been developing. Our brain was originally designed for basic survival. The better we were able to anticipate danger, the better our chances for survival.
The dangers our ancestors faced (predators, bad weather, lack of food, illness) required physical action. Today, most of our perceived dangers are mental…and we seem to have lots of them: paying bills, traffic jams, weight gain, mortgage, climate, drugs, job loss, relationship issues, news, politics, etc. The accumulation of our everyday stress creates a mind jam that sets us up for a life of misery.
Being alone is another perceived danger. Even our ancestors needed protection by the tribe or else he or she would be an easy prey. In modern times, our brains still fear rejection and try to “protect” ourselves by comparing to others; am I fitting in? I hope I get a lot of “likes” for this picture I posted; am I doing as good as the others?
This doesn’t mean our ancestors didn’t compare, yet there was only a small group to compare to.
This has created a chaotic shift in our minds. We believe all the stories that goes on in our head. And the more intellectual you are, the more careful you have to be with the “chatter” that goes on in your head. Emotional re-conditioning of the mind is key in developing the life you want, and it all starts within. Similar to lifting weights to make our muscles strong, we must take the time to develop our mindset in order to better handle today’s stress and emotional obstacles that life may have set out for us.
Here’s the first step in finding true happiness: Don’t believe everything your mind tells you. If someone gives you a compliment such as—“You look so beautiful today!” Some people may think to themselves “oh yeah right, if only she could see the fat layer under my clothes”; or “she’s just saying that to be polite.” Assuming things or creating unpleasant thoughts and feelings only serve to cut off from what’s actually happening and hurts the chance for us to engage with the good that is happening all around us. It rips away from the present of capturing micro positive moments.
Which leads us to our second point…
The second part in helping you attain happiness is collecting happy micro moments.
World renowned psychologist, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, has dedicated her life researching and teaching about positive psychology. From her research, she has identified 10 major positive emotions. Those include: Hope, Serenity, Joy, Interest, Inspiration, Gratitude, Pride, Amusement, Awe, and Love.
According to Dr. Fredrickson, we have far more positive emotions around us daily than we do negative, we just need to learn how to be more aware of them in order to acknowledge them.
Things such as taking a minute in the morning to be grateful for something (actually writing it down makes a big different in your day’s perspective, try it out!), being in awe of the beautiful day (being mindful), taking interest in something, or simply sharing some love. It’s hard to experience hate and anger when you’re practicing positive emotional awareness. We tend to magnify the negative events and unfortunately it ends up ruining our day!
Yet, it doesn’t have to!
The Positive Ratio
After years of research, Dr Fredrickson has found a ratio of negative to positive events of people who flourish verses those that don’t. There is also a ratio of maintaining healthy relationship. Check out Part II of the blog to find out the key ratio and the third most important point in finding true happiness.