Five Keys to Deeper Happiness
Experts say meaningful happiness can be cultivated, but you have to work at it.
Posted Jul 10, 2019
Psychological research has long focused on alleviating mental health issues like depression and anxiety and attempting to elevate mood. But being happy means more than not being depressed or anxious. It means understanding that while skepticism and pessimistic thoughts and feelings have a place in normal, everyday life (and, in fact, can act as a warning system that protects us from future harm), a balance toward positivity is also necessary in order to overshadow unnecessary negativity and cultivate an expansive sense of happiness.
Happiness is often measured by one's degree of personal life satisfaction. Yet, not all happiness is or should be based on success, achievement, or accumulation of wealth. To that end, more researchers, writers, and other experts are focusing on positive psychology, and examining what it means to feel good and pursue true happiness, rather than merely being content to feel less bad. Some of their ideas can help you cultivate deeper happiness that comes from being more at peace with yourself and the world around you, whatever that world entails:
- Grow a sense of gratitude. The research of Dr. Philip Watson and others at Eastern Washington University suggests that gratitude increases happiness, so it makes sense to increase your sense of gratitude. How? To start with, pay more attention to what’s good in your life than what’s not. Look for good in the world outside of your own.
- Stay curious. Wherever you go, pay attention to the details of life that surround you, and be open to new insights and surprises.
- Pursue creativity. For some people, that means developing artistry by doing something with your hands. Write, sketch, take up a musical instrument. For others, it may simply mean being more open-minded and exposing yourself to different types of creative thinkers through books, concerts, and exhibits.
- Develop a spiritual practice to help you through darker times. Reaching out to some higher power—through religion or through the power of nature and the universe—has helped many, many people survive times of adversity, tragedy, and deep sorrow. According to clinical psychologist and proponent of existential positive psychology, Paul T.P. Wong, a spiritual practice can help bring more meaning to your life through a better sense of kindness, empathy, and generosity.
- Seek out “happiness mentors.” It’s not easy to find and cultivate happiness, but you can learn and get support from teachers, counselors, elders, spiritual leaders, and peers who are on a path to happiness themselves. Surround yourself with people who display a strength of character, backbone, and determination, who model different ways of living a meaningful and satisfying life and can teach you how to have one, too.
Watkins PC, McLaughlin T, and Parker JP. Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being: Cultivating Gratitude for a Harvest of Happiness. Scientific Concepts Behind Happiness, Kindness, and Empathy in Contemporary Society. 2019. DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5918-4.ch002
Wong PTP. Mature Happiness. Scientific Concepts Behind Happiness, Kindness, and Empathy in Contempory Society. 2019 DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5918-4.ch006