Let’s discuss happiness.
Many of us are looking forward to the New Year with the hope of more happiness in the upcoming year.
What constitutes happiness is debatable, depending on which expert is positing which theory on what happiness is, and the best means to achieving that happiness.
Some experts apply the nature or nurture model to their theories on happiness. In her book The How of Happiness, Dr. Sonya Lyubomirsky says that only 40 percent of happiness can be controlled. She states that 50 percent of happiness is genetic and 10 percent is situational.
Although I found the book interesting and informative, my experience, training, and education leads me to question all surveys and studies which involve human responses.
The wording of questions in a survey can prompt a certain response and the act of studying a person can change the outcome of the person’s response.
With that in mind, and with so many experts putting forth so many different theories on happiness, and so many different definitions of what happiness is; then how do we find happiness for ourselves?
Perhaps the key to finding happiness for ourselves is to listen more carefully to ourselves, instead of outside sources; be they experts, family, or friends.
That isn’t to say that these people can’t help us to lead a happier life. I believe in the mental health profession, and have, over the decades, met many wonderful and compassionate people in that profession.
But, we are all unique individuals who experience life in a way uniquely ours. No one, no matter how much of our life story they know, will ever know us as well as we know ourselves.
Let’s suppose we know a man who works 6 days a week for 60 hours. He is absolutely happy with his life. He loves his work, finds great purpose in his work, and is recognized for his special contributions by peers and seniors alike. His weekly pay is above average and affords him a financially stable life.
Unseen by outsiders, this man leads a very balanced life. He makes time for friends and family and has a very fulfilling marriage. He doesn’t think about it often, but if asked, he will tell you he is happy every day of his life.
Then one day this man goes to his doctor for his annual physical, which according to studies on that subject, can mean a 7 to 11-minute interaction with his doctor.
Unknown to the nurse who took his blood pressure-which was high-the man finished an espresso just before sprinting across the parking lot to make his appointment on time.
The doctor informs the man that he has high blood pressure and asks him about his job. The man answers that he works 60 hours a week at a job with a lot of responsibility.
Suddenly the man is diagnosed as hypertensive, given a prescription for high blood pressure medication and labeled a Type-A personality with workaholic tendencies.
The man is given a pamphlet on the subject and informed that if he doesn’t change his lifestyle he may be headed for a heart attack.
The man returns home and decides to research the new label assigned to him. He finds a book written by a cardiologist that supports the new label he has been given. He surfs the net and finds article after article supporting the doctors warning.
The man talks to friends and family and they tell him he needs to listen to his doctor because they have read about what he has been told and they believe it to be true.
So, the man starts his medication, cuts back on his work hours, and suddenly he feels physically ill every day and he no longer can remember being happy.
The point here is not that you should not listen to your doctor. The point is, you should trust yourself on what makes you happy.
If you are truly looking for happiness, then look to yourself first for your unique path to that happiness.
Who knows, you may be leading a happy life and not even know it.