Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Happiness. If we don't have it, we want it. If we've already got some, we'd like more. Not only have philosophers and spiritual leaders weighed in on the subject of happiness, now scientists and psychologists have jumped into the conversation too.

What's Wrong With You?

It used to be that psychology focused intently on what's wrong with us, and how to fix it. But a new breed of thinkers is studying what's right with us, and how to capitalize on it. I like that.

These thinkers have learned that there are lots of practical things we can do to increase our optimism and joy. But we need to understand what happiness is all about in the first place. When we're happy, we don't feel deliriously joyful every minute. Even if we're blessed with health, love and comfort, we still have to do the laundry and pay our taxes, which is less than thrilling, to be sure.

You see, happiness isn't always about what's happening in our lives today. If it were, we'd be happy that we found a parking spot, then sad that the meter is broken, then happy we found a new spot, then sad that it's a further walk, and on and on forever. Get the idea?

Becoming Happier

We can learn to become happier when we view the world in new ways, connect with others, find deeper meaning in the ordinary, practice mindfulness, take care of our health, and many other strategies.

Still, that doesn't mean we'll never be sad or upset. That's because our emotions have a primitive purpose -- to tell us important information about ourselves. If we try to deny our unhappy moods, we'll lose valuable insights. Plus, putting on a happy face when you're sad takes a lot of work. Sometimes you just need to be sad for a while before you're ready to feel good again. But science shows us that we can feel good again.

The Truth About Happiness

The point is that happiness, like many things in life, isn't always what it appears to be. Happy people have high points and low. Laughter and tears. Triumph and struggle. The difference is that happy people have the emotional tools to navigate life's inevitable ups and downs.