New Perspectives on Increasing Happiness

Can you learn to be happier?  Positive psychology says yes, with some effort. Genetics plays a role, possibly contributing up to 50% of our happiness quotient. It is likely that 10% is influenced by our life circumstances, but a full 40% is through our actions and thoughts. With 40% of our happiness influenced by our actions and thoughts, we have a lot of room to increase our happiness if we are intentional and effortful.

In the 1990s, Martin Seligman started the branch of psychology called positive psychology. Positive psychology studies what is right and how we can improve further on the good.

Relationships are a large part of our happiness. Focusing on relationships is a big first step toward greater happiness. We are social beings and social connection is key to health and happiness. 

If healthy relationships contribute to our happiness, then improving our relationships with better communication is important. Better communication does not mean we have to agree all the time. We may even decide not to communicate about touchy subjects.

John Gottman is a researcher who describes six conflict management skills. They are softening up (approach the problem softly), complain but do not blame, use “I” statements not “you” statements, describe what is happening without judgment, be polite and appreciative, and don’t store things up.

Another approach to increasing happiness is to introduce variety into your life. Call someone you have not spoken to for a while, go a different way to work, or be open to chance opportunities.

A third way to increase happiness is to take time out. Time out could be meditation or to give yourself permission to sleep enough nightly. Optimally, you would give yourself both gifts daily. Doing so may reduce feelings of overwhelm, decreases stress, and improve immunity and creativity. To consider how the lack of mental health affects us, sick days from work are due more from mental distress than physical illness.

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New Perspective on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is a day of giving gifts and expressing our affection for our loved ones. Social relationships and support are beginning to be understood to be key to our health. They are as important to our health as the food we eat.

Relationships impact our mental and emotional health, which affects overall health and well-being. With depression and anxiety rising world-wide, these mental health issues may increase the risk for physical disorders, especially heart disease. Our bodies experience distress when we are stressed due to hormone imbalances. These imbalances may make it more difficult to choose to eat healthier foods, refrain from drinking alcohol excessively, smoking, or even inappropriate drug use. Imbalances in our body may even make it difficult for us to obtain a restful night’s sleep.

Some people may deal with mental health issues by isolating themselves. People are becoming more Isolated because of the rise of social software like Facebook. Loneliness, however you define it, increases inflammation in the body, which leads to further health issues. The UK has instituted programs to help people feel more connected to help increase their wellness. This intervention saves the government money in health care costs.

There are ways to improve social connections for better emotional and physical health.

Face-to-face interactions with family, friends, and loved ones is important. Social media has a place, but it should not be a replacement for face-to-face conversations. Even small micro-conversations with strangers, like the barista at the coffee shop, or the cashier at the grocery, can help make you feel more socially connected.

Surround yourself with people who live healthier lifestyles. The habits of your friends greatly influence your habits. Our health habits may account up to 40% of our health. People who engage in eating well, or moving often, offer you a supportive environment.

Practice gratitude and compassion. People who think positively about their relationships may experience a more positive health outcome. Research has shown that a four-step practice of sitting quietly each day to send compassion and loving kindness to yourself, to a loved one, to a difficult person in your life, and to our earth and all its creatures, large and small, increases positive emotions.

This Valentine’s Day, give yourself and others the gift of connection.

Disclaimer: This information is being provided to you for educational and informational purposes only.  It is being provided to you to educate you about healthy eating and lifestyles and as a self-help tool for your own use.  It is not medical or psychological advice.  This information is to be used at your own risk, based on your own judgment.  For my full disclaimer, please go to donnakkelly.com\disclaimer.