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Refugee

Happiness: Is it as easy as a smile?

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When I hear the phrase "the pursuit of happiness"—that inalienable right we celebrate on the 4th of July—I think instantly of one thing.

Sleep.

A good night's sleep—no weird dreams, no noise, no reason to get out of bed until the bloom of dawn—is the key to a happy day.

Could happiness really be that simple?

If it were, I guess, happiness wouldn't be an American obsession, its pursuit seeded into our national identity by the Declaration of Independence; its dimensions dissected by professors in the booming field of "happiness studies"; its acquisition peddled by self-help gurus who claim the power to help us complete the chase.

And apparently—based on the number of books, studies and newspaper stories on the topic—one thing that makes us happy is thinking about happiness.

A few days ago I saw Kat, one of my favorite baristas, leaning against an outdoor wall of the coffeehouse where she works. She was reading the Dalai Lama's best seller, "The Art of Happiness."

I asked if reading the book made her happy. It did, she said, and it offered some good advice. Such as: Smile. If you believe you're happy, you'll be happy.

So now when people ask Kat how she's doing she doesn't just say, "Good." She says, "Great." That rhetorical shift, she says, has boosted her confidence.

Could happiness really be that simple?

Not according to the happiness surveys that issue from academia as routinely as conflicting studies on vitamins.

There's the study that says we each have a genetic happiness set-point to which we return regardless of circumstance. I'm fond of that one; it helps explain my mother's supernatural good cheer.

I also like the survey that says people in sunny California are no happier overall than warmth-starved Chicagoans. We make up for our weather deficits with the happiness that comes from strong connections to city, family, history.

Other surveys tell us that happiness varies from era to era, life phase to life phase.

Old age, according to a recent University of Chicago study, is a happier time than youth. That's nice, but I was depressed by the finding that midlife tends to be a bummer.

Here's another recent study, from the University of Michigan: In a "happiness and life satisfaction" survey of 97 countries, Americans ranked a respectable 16th.

We may be less happy than Danes, Canadians and Colombians, but we have more joie de vivre than almost everybody else, including the French.

Happiness, according to that study, is rooted in peace, freedom and social tolerance. Money helps.

But other research emphasizes that wealth can make individuals and nations unhappy.

The more we have, the more we want, and the more we're willing to sacrifice health and relationships to get it.

In one recent poll, Americans reported that they're unhappier than they have been in 15 years.

Then there's the theory that gloomy happiness reports convince us we're miserable.

Talking about happiness as a matter of polls and studies makes it sound complex. But ask people what makes them happy and their answers aren't complicated.

"Summertime," said Laura, when I quizzed a couple more of my favorite baristas.

"My pineapple upside-down cake," said Abby. "Especially when it gives me trouble when I'm making it and then it turns out good."

"Comedy," said Kat, "because I'm good at it."

A beautiful day. Something that turns out better than you expected, instead of worse. Doing what you do well.

Some days, the pursuit seems pretty simple, especially when you've had some sleep.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/chi-schmich_04jul04,0,5345453.column

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that is halarious and completely out of the time. that could have been the same thing said during the depression! where tf do people get a job like this, cuz i want one. happiness is made by you and you alone, nobody is gonna do it for you. make a plan, stick with it and then go for it, that's happiness. you did it on your own and when it's done, you'll be proud of yourself and that creates happiness.

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I agree that Californians are no happier than people anywhere else. It seems like a lot of the people I meet in L.A. are emotionally suppressed and chant "let's be positive" like it's a magic spell to ward off the more unpleasant facets of reality. They superficially label others who have a full range of feelings as "negative", then wonder why they can't keep any meaningful friendships. To me, being positive is like Nurk says ^, not walking around with a Stepford smile all the time.

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On July 5, 2008 at 3:04 PM, Refugee said:

When I hear the phrase "the pursuit of happiness"—that inalienable right we celebrate on the 4th of July—I think instantly of one thing. Sleep. A good night's sleep—no weird dreams, no noise, no reason to get out of bed until the bloom of dawn—is the key to a happy day.

Could happiness really be that simple?

I just read an article saying how sleep is underrated in American society, that wanting to sleep, sleep in, etc. is viewed as lazy or the terrible phrase of "...sleep when I'm dead...". 

Sleep is incredible, a chance for a pure break from the day. Definitely sleep plays a part in happiness. 

On July 5, 2008 at 3:04 PM, Refugee said:

Smile. If you believe you're happy, you'll be happy. So now when people ask Kat how she's doing she doesn't just say, "Good." She says, "Great." That rhetorical shift, she says, has boosted her confidence. Could happiness really be that simple?

This type of positive thinking can help, can improve one's mood.

Consistent exercise, some cardio, weightlifting and a healthy diet help too.

cheers

 

On July 5, 2008 at 3:44 PM, nurktwin said:

happiness is made by you and you alone, nobody is gonna do it for you. make a plan, stick with it and then go for it, that's happiness. you did it on your own and when it's done, you'll be proud of yourself and that creates happiness.

This too can make one feel happy.

 

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