Modern life with all its stresses, demands and financial pressures seems to be designed to make it harder and harder to “be happy.” Even when the economy is in good shape and people are buying bigger houses and faster cars, there still doesn’t seem to be any increase in general happiness. Common sense and social science seem to indicate happiness comes from the inside, not the outside.
There are a number of very interesting books and recordings by German spiritualist, Eckhart Tolle, which suggest that people should live in the “now” instead of stressing about past losses or future performance. He stresses building and cherishing uplifting personal relationships and savoring the little pleasures in life.
Indeed, the University of North Carolina recently completed a study of what kind of things might contribute to a positive emotional status over the course of a day. Their subjects were required to submit daily emotional reports detailing their responses to daily events over an extended period of time. They identified those people who seem to be: (1) the happiest; (2) the most resilient against adversity; and (3) the most successful in their jobs, relationships and health outcomes. These people seem to be more open to small pleasant moments and able to savor them. These brief experiences of pleasure elevated mood and protected against negative events. The researchers suggest that if happiness is something you want out of life, then focus on the small moments of happiness or pleasure and cultivate positive emotions along the way. Over time, positive emotions lead to an openness that helps to build resources, which serve us later when adversity or stress threaten. They even found these positive emotions could help ward off depression and anxiety.
Take home message: Decide to be happy and positive; be on the lookout for pleasurable moments or beautiful scenery or music; and dwell on the beautiful things you find and share them with others.