The Pursuit of Happiness?

The Pursuit of Happiness?

Science have been trying to measure happiness for years. In 2014 researchers at UCL Institute of Neurology developed the happiness model, an equation for happiness based upon an individual’s expectations, decisions and past outcomes.

The study investigated the relationship between happiness and reward using over 18,000 people worldwide via their app ‘The Great Brain Experiment’. They found that moment-to-moment happiness reflects not just how well things are going, but whether things are going better than expected – though it’s easier for us to be negative than it is to be positive. 

For human survival and evolution we developed what’s called in science as a ‘negativity bias’, which means that the brain preferentially looks for, reacts to, stores, and then recalls negative information over positive information. For example, there’s a pretty famous finding in the realm of relationship psychology by John Gottman, at the University of Washington. He found that it takes at least five positive interactions to make up for just one negative one.

So how do we create more happiness moments? Through an attitude of gratitude! In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Two psychologists, Dr Robert Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr Michael McCullough of the University of Miami, have done much of the research on gratitude. 

In one study, they asked all participants to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics. One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative).

After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to the doctor than those who focused on sources of aggravation.

So how do we create more of an attitude of gratitude? The first step is to not to see our experiences as either positive or negative. All kinds of things happen in our daily lives, so by not putting a label on them, they then become an experience that we can choose to create more of, or less of.   

The second step is to savour the experience that we want more of in our lives, when we have them. The way to remember something is to make it intense, feel in the body, and make it lasting. These trigger the neurons in our brain to fire, which when repeated on a regular basis helps to create our habits and behaviours. So rather than noticing it and feeling good for a couple of seconds, stay with it, enjoy it, for 10, 20, or 30 seconds, so it really starts developing neural structure.

The final step is to sense and intend that this experience becomes a part of you. In other words, imagine that it’s being woven into the fabric of your body and brain and who you are and want to be in the future.

We are all pursuing happiness whether it is in terms of conventional goals like having a good job, or working for ourselves, a family and money or bigger goals like climbing Everest or swimming the channel. We have to remember that happiness is a journey, not a destination.


Dean Griffiths is the Founder and CEO of Energy Fusion, the first interactive online platform to subjectively assess employee physical and mental health for medium-sized companies and individuals. Everything they do is based on over 30 years of experience and backed by science and clinical research. Dean is also known as The Soul Whisperer, an intuitive coach working with women to live a life of purpose through his Inner Journey Coaching Programme. Find out more by visiting his website. You can follow him on Twitter @SoulWhisperer71

 


 

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4 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. To achieve happiness we must not dream too big. Otherwise we would just be upset when we don\’t become successful, especially if we see our friends getting ahead of us. I\’m not saying we just become simple-minded people but we have to be reasonable of what we can achieve in life. I think this the very key to happiness. Nice article though.

    Reply
    1. I understand what you are saying Josh, though from my experiencing of coaching for 10 years, people are more inspired when the dreams or goals seem beyond their reach. This is also because we set 3 levels. So a easy, then realistic and then beyond what I think. Appreciate the comment

      Reply
  2. This is an insightful article. It poignantly reminds us that happiness is not just hard to measure but also hard to define. Most of us probably don’t believe we need a formal definition of happiness; we know it when we feel it. Happiness for me is reminiscing about good times with my family. On the other hand, while happiness is defined by the individual, I’ve always felt it a bit foolish to declare that nothing can be learned from observing the happiness of others. So just observe what makes other people what makes them happy and satisfied with their lives.

    Reply
    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Lydia. I agree and something that I use and I get my coaching clients to do, is to see how much happiness is around them to understand where their happiness levels are. If we are in an environment of happiness, we must be attracting and having that reflected back at us. What do you think?

      Reply

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