Science of Happiness

Happiness is a Journey, not a Destination!

Who among us would not like to be happier? The quest for happiness is arguably the defining quality of the human condition. And so positive psychology - the science of happiness - is one of the key guiding principles of Horizons Life Coaching.

Happiness lies at the heart of most religions, drives most of our life choices and is even enshrined in the constitutions of nations such as the United States. And in November 2010 UK Prime Minister David Cameron stated that whilst he regarded economic growth as his most urgent priority, he also wanted to find a way to evaluate the nation’s happiness in order to find “a better measure of how the country was doing than GDP (Gross Domestic Product)”.

Why is it Sometimes Hard to be Happy?

Positive Psychology and the science of happiness is big news. Inspired by American psychologist Martin Seligman, there has been a tidal wave of research into happiness in recent years. This has led to a substantial body of new scientific evidence about what makes us truly happy. Why is this needed? There are two main reasons:

  • As humans we are born with a number of genetic drivers to ensure our survival as a species that don’t always lead us down the right path when it comes to personal happiness. So just as we have a genetic driver to consume sugar (to give us energy) that we have to learn to control (or become obese), so we have similar powerful genetic drivers with respect to wealth, beauty, power and respect that we also have to learn to control.
  • There are innumerable people in our lives who would like us to serve their interests rather than our own. And many of them offer us a version of happiness or unhappiness to help persuade us to behave in the way they would like us to. Such people can include politicians, advertisers, religious leaders, employers, family members – and even friends! But often what they tell us about the things that will improve our lives (such as paying less tax, watching a new murder-based TV series, or being ruthless in striving for success) can result in a net reduction in our overall happiness.

The result of these two factors is that as economist Richard Layard has pointed out “Today most of us are richer, healthier and have better homes, cars, food and holidays than ever before. But yet we are no happier than we were 50 years ago”.

Some Simple Steps to Greater Happiness

The science of happiness is starting to provide us the reasons why this should be the case; and is giving us much clearer guidance than we have had before about what does actually make us happy. So we now have considerable evidence that beyond certain (fairly low) levels, acquiring more wealth and possessions does not tend to increase our overall long-term happiness. However, we can all improve our levels of happiness by, for example:

  • Helping others more often and being more community orientated
  • Understanding our life’s “higher purpose”
  • Cultivating a spirit of thankfulness, appreciation, optimism and a sense of wonder
  • Practicing responsive listening
  • Keeping fit by doing the exercise we most enjoy
  • Living closer to work (not having to commute long distances)
  • Working to our strengths: Identifying our core strengths (or values) and ensuring we choose a career that allows us to use these strengths. (This is much more important than salary)
  • Keeping up with friends

The above is only a very small sample of the many things that we have already learned from the science of happiness. And equally, there is growing evidence of all the actions and behaviours that don’t brink us happiness, such as comparing ourselves with others, spending a long time considering all the options before making any purchases, and watching TV for more than a few hours a week.

Related Pages: Happiness and Horizons Life Coaching

The Happiness Pinnacle"© - The unique Horizons' model of Human Happiness.

Horizons Life Coaching Wellbeing Workshops and Consultancy Services.

Three Incredibly Easy Ways to be Happier - Article exploring some of the lessons of Positive Psychology

Working Back to Happiness - Article looking at happiness and wellbeing from a workplace persepective

scienceofhappiness

“For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life! This perspective has helped me see there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way! So treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no-one. Happiness is a journey, not a destination!”

Alfred De Souza