According to the American Psychological Association, a person is considered happy when he or she feels:
It’s a big list, and you may know that they all sound contradictory. And no matter how often you are told to be happy, it still doesn’t feel very authentic.
There is no magic secret formula, but science suggests that cultivating positive emotions can have a positive impact on your health.
In fact, happiness might be the most powerful thing you can do to achieve good health and longevity.
But you need to do it differently from the rest of us.
Happiness is different for everyone.
I’m certainly not a natural optimist. And I won’t pretend that I know the secret to happiness. I don’t think any of us know it.
But I do believe that finding happiness has helped me a lot over the years.
I can’t put a number to it, but it’s probably a good deal of the reason I’m still alive.
Not that I want to die or anything, but it has probably helped me avoid the worst of the consequences of chronic disease and longer-lived mortality.
My goal is to feel happy and fulfilled at least 80% of the time. And to have that feeling of “you, me, and the world” every day. And that’s hard to find a lot of the time.
One thing I’ve done in the past to achieve this goal is meditate. Meditation has helped me develop a mind that is full of happiness and hope.
As neuroscientist Shawn Achor points out in his book The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, meditation and positive psychology have a huge impact on the brain.
For example, he cites a study that found that men who do one day of intensive meditation a week for eight weeks had changes in their grey matter in the hippocampus (the part of the brain that is important for spatial navigation) and the anterior cingulate cortex (which is involved with executive function and emotion) compared with men who had not meditated in eight weeks.
We also know that mindfulness meditation can help reduce the symptoms of stress and increase an individual’s resilience.
If you’re looking to be happier, you can do it without spending a fortune on meditation retreats, podcasts, or one-on-one sessions.
But the most important step of all is to make sure you’re in a supportive and healthy environment with positive people.
If you’re one of those people that just get along with everyone, you might not be on the top of the Happiness Index, especially if you don’t have a support group of positive friends, family, colleagues, or mentors.
If you don’t have people in your life who help you to feel better and do your best work, you’re going to get the least from your happiness potential.
But, the best way to get into a supportive and positive environment is to make it a priority to create one.
And, because we’re being honest here, some of you will fail at this. If you’re anything like me, you’ll hold on to pain, anger, and frustration for far too long.
But, at some point, it’s time to make some difficult decisions to change the way you operate and the people you surround yourself with.
If your inner circle isn’t a happy place, then you should have a conversation with that person.
Sometimes this means cutting people off completely. This is a hard thing to do. But, if they are negatively impacting your ability to have good life experiences, this might be the right decision.
Me: Hey, I’m really glad we are still friends. What’s up?
Friend: Oh. I’m good.
Me: I just need to say I’m not happy you have been treating me poorly for a few months now.
Friend: I didn’t mean to hurt you.
Me: Yeah. That’s not what I wanted. I really want to be your friend but you are a negative person.
Friend: I’m really sorry I’ve been acting this way.
Me: I understand. It sucks.
Friend: You said I didn’t deserve to be your friend.
Me: You don’t. You’ve just been making everything worse for me.
Friend: I’m really sorry.
Me: You should have apologized months ago.
Friend: I’m really sorry.
Me: You’re going to have to do better than that.
Friend: Okay. I’ll do better.
Me: Thank you. You deserve to be happy.
Friend: I’m really sorry.
Me: You should be.
I don’t believe that you can be truly happy if you’re not surrounded by people that make you feel good. If your inner circle is a toxic, miserable, soulless circle of people that you need to continually be putting yourself out to meet, then you’re doing it wrong.
And if you have friends that are being negative and unsupportive, then this is the perfect opportunity to change that.
This is something that you should be having conversations with all of your friends. In fact, I would be surprised if you don’t have any of these conversations with your friends, but it is certainly the case that some people just aren’t listening.
Walk up to them, and get into their personal space. This is important because it shows that you are really committed to the relationship.
Now, open with: “Hey, I’ve noticed that you are making some negative comments about other people, which is not okay.
I want to start a new kind of dialogue with you where I know you will be very open and vulnerable. What’s your deal?”
They will be terrified at first and will do everything they can to discredit you and end the conversation. But, do not back down.
You deserve to be a great friend to you. This is a chance to change your life and you are about to step up to the challenge.
If you make it through the initial shock and they admit their point of view, you will discover that this conversation is no easy task.
This conversation is not designed to be easy, nor is it easy to talk about.
However, if you commit to talking about these things and you’re open to honest feedback, it will be much more fruitful than holding the thoughts inside.