According to the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, happiness can be described as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.” As the field of positive psychology is growing, research is continuously being done on the study of happiness and how to attain it. Chade-Meng Tan, Google’s engineer turned happiness coach, moved to Google’s HR department and created a course for employees to teach them how to cultivate happiness. He got the idea of developing a course to help generate happiness, when he observed that his coworkers were stressed out and unhappy at work. He set up a three step process that would help educate employees on mindfulness skills and enhance wellbeing.
Chade-Meng Tan’s three step process to cultivating happiness requires calming your mind, logging moments of joy, and wishing other people happiness. Calming your mind consists of “finding easy ways to take pauses during the day and be mindful of your breath.” In other words, it is a form of meditation. According to a review of 209 studies, mindfulness can keep negative thoughts away, which could lead to a treatment of anxiety, depression, and stress. The idea is that when harnessing the negativity, and focusing on positive thoughts, our mind will learn to release the negativity. When there is less negativity present, it is easier to focus on the positive, thus feeling happier.
Step two of Chade-Meng Tan’s method is to log moments of joy. Choosing to acknowledge good moments while they are happening can increase our ability to label days as happy ones. It is easier to hold on to negative moments when they occur, and can be more difficult to remember the good moments. Logging moments of joy can help build the muscle of holding on to positive experiences. Writing down positive experiences can add another step up to this. A 2006 study reported that when people document positive experiences in a journal or diary, they can experience higher feelings of satisfaction that lasted up to two weeks.
Wishing others happiness is step three of Chade-Meng Tan’s method to happiness. According to Meng, the joy experienced from giving to others has more benefits than receiving. A study that backs his claim was completed to measure acts of kindness and how they correlate with life satisfaction. The study included voluntary participants ages 18 to 60 that had been assigned to complete acts of kindness and track their level of satisfaction in life. The study concluded that there was an increase in life satisfaction. Although the field of positive psychology does not have as much information and research on happiness, as they do on depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental illness, it is continuing to grow as more and more people are gaining interest. Meng equates building physical strength at the gym as the same, and as equally important, as exercising the mind to think positively.
Why should people be interested in attaining happiness? The answer is simple. Happiness does not just make us feel good in the moment. It is not just an emotion that can be experienced. Happiness can improve our physical health, relationships, financial position, ability to deal with stress, and can help people be more creative. When people are happy, they are more likely to be in good physical health and more likely to live longer. Those who are happier, have a higher chance of having an expansive social life, with more friends. Happiness also correlates with productivity. When people are happier, they have the ability of making more money and are productive employees.
Sonja Lyubomirsky, Positive psychology researcher and author, found that “roughly 50 percent of happiness is determined by our genes and 10 percent by our life circumstance, but 40 percent depends on our daily activities.” This means that people have a good amount of control over levels of happiness based everyday activities. Activities that Lyubomirsky recommends for cultivating happiness include imagining and writing about how you want your life to be, imaging your relationships going great, photographing and then writing about the things that add value to your life, and even thinking about how your life would be without those things. These exercises are meant to build up the positive muscle and to generate positive thinking.
Happiness is not only a great feeling to experience, but it is a necessary emotion to cultivate. Happiness leads to greater life satisfaction. Happiness also benefits other aspects of life like physical health, relationships, finances, and productivity. Research produced by the positive psychology field concludes that there are steps (daily exercises) to take towards attaining happiness and decreasing negative thoughts. Happiness is something that is worth cultivating and attaining. What do you do to cultivate happiness? Let me know in the comments!