Happy Thoughts

Actually, it’s not just thoughts, but our actions and our relationships that make us truly happy. According to the premise of the documentary Happy, a film that has (here it goes) happily made its way to Netflix streaming, our happiness is determined according to this mix: 50% genetics (you’re born that way), 10% circumstances (that new Rolex won’t make much difference) and 40% our own choices. In other words, our actions and decisions play a huge role in determining if we are walking around with a frown or grinning with glee.

As the film explains, the man pulling the rickshaw in India is as happy as the average American living in relative splendor. The Himba tribe people in Namibia have no physical wealth, but have the deep connections of family and culture that have endured millennia. They love their lives. Everyone is family, and when one is hurting, they all feel the pain. These examples and others make the film’s case.

The flip side of the coin is brutal, ugly and bleak. Illustrating unhappy is the profile of the Japanese career man who dies of karoshi, literally working himself to death, dropping dead upon receiving news of a quality problem back at the plant. Sudden cardiac arrest and instant death have become all too common in a culture that expects 3,000+ hour work years (Do the math. It’s a lot of time.) and the smallest number of vacation days in the industrialized world. (Incidently, karoshi is most common on Sundays and at the beginning of the Japanese fiscal year in April. Apparently, the thought of returning to the office on Monday morning or facing tough new quotas can kill a guy, and it’s mostly guys.)

Happiness, ultimately, is a choice. We can choose to connect with and nurture healthy, meaningful relationships with others. Family and community that act like family make all the difference.

We can play. Or we can work ourselves to death.

We can enjoy the intrinsic pleasures of activities and relationships. Or we can chase the latest brands and get ourselves into debt trying to impress the world with our bling (until we find that nobody cares).

We can care for each other, serve each other, and build a life that matters. Or we can focus solely on ourselves, wondering why that 10% isn’t making us truly happy.

Do something for yourself that could change the way you see the world, your work, your relationships, your spirituality and everything else important. See the film.

Also see this: Thank Your Way to Happiness

Bill Florin is the President and Owner of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, Connecticut.

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Thank Your Way to Happiness

Thankfulness will make you happy. Some may think it works the other way, if I am happy I will be thankful, but the first sentence is correct. The simple act of finding things to be thankful for and dwelling on them for a moment tends to wire our brains for happiness. We can literally build ourselves into happier beings by taking the time to be gracious.

Robert Emmons of University of California, Davis completed a ten-year study on the positive psychology topic of gratitude. The product was a book called Thanks! [You can link to an online version here] Early in the book he shares a compelling finding. Emmons and a colleague conducted an experiment in which they divided their subjects into three groups. The first was to keep a journal of things for which they were grateful, the second recorded things that made them mad, and the third control group did neither.

After a few weeks, the journals came back. The gracious group recorded thoughts about beautiful weather, favors received and the like. The negative group had notes about rude drivers, hard days at the job and other indignities. Then the subjects were given a happiness test. The gracious group was 25% happier than the control group. It’s no surprise that the negatively-focused people were the unhappiest.

The study goes on, and you can read it yourself, but the point is clear. Being grateful leads to being a happier person. This idea may be taught and reinforced by your faith tradition (and may lead to a richer experience), or you may have no faith at all. You may come from a long line of pessimists or a home where positivity prevailed. It doesn’t matter. This is one of those cases when your action affects your attitude and you get to choose.

Choose gratitude and happiness will not be far behind. And as you navigate your life, career and job search, that positive energy will come through, helping you become someone with whom others want to work and spend time. It’s your choice and you can start right now.

Encouragement: More ideas on the psychology or work and leadership.

Thank You Notes: The what and how to go along with this idea of why to be thankful.

Bill Florin, CPRW, is President of Resu-mazing Services Company. Your comments and ideas are welcome.