The Science Of Happiness

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For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Picture this: A man in his late thirties living in the slums of Calcutta, India working as a rickshaw driver to support his family of four. Now imagine the lifestyle of your average American male same age, same family structure. What do you think the happiness level of both individuals would be? Would one be happier than the other? What if I told you that based on scientific research, both men's happiness level is exactly the same. This is how the documentary Happy begins its story on the quest to explore what exactly makes people happy.

This movie reminded me of a Manifestation Yoga workshop I took last year with the amazing, Jennifer Pastiloff.  The class was all about manifesting the things you want most in your life. In the beginning of class, she handed out sticky notes and asked us to write down the one thing we desired and then we were told to stick it on the wall.  At the end of class, we took a note that did not belong to us to focus our energy outside of ourselves in helping manifest someone else’s dream.  The most interesting thing I noticed was the majority of responses on those notes said they wanted to be happy.  It is the common thread that’s woven throughout all of our lives.

But what determines our happiness?  A study was mentioned in the film that was performed using identical twins to access their happiness levels due to a variety of factors. They found that we are genetically predisposed to a certain level of happiness. Therefore, 50% of what determines our happiness is due to our genes. The other 50% is broken down to 10% for external circumstances (job, relationships) and 40% our actions and thoughts. You would think that it would be the other way around. We place so much emphasis on life circumstances and situations but they only account for 10% of our happiness!

Manifestation Yoga Workshop with Jennifer Pastiloff and my beautiful yogi compadres.

Manifestation Yoga Workshop with Jennifer Pastiloff and my beautiful yogi compadres.

I still have the sticky note I plucked from the wall.  I don't know who it belongs to but I wish them all the happiness in the world.

I still have the sticky note I plucked from the wall.  I don't know who it belongs to but I wish them all the happiness in the world.

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This is actually some pretty fantastic news.  Basically, science has shown us that we have the ability to actively work on our happiness each day.   Take a second to absorb that.  In case you are saying to yourself “just great, one more thing added to my to-do list,” I want you to think in terms of empowering yourself to remove things from your list.  Let me explain.

How about we perform our own happiness experiment. Right now, make a list in your phone or grab a pen and paper and write down five things that make you happy.  Note: these aren’t things that you think could bring you happiness, so try not to write down ‘winning the lottery’ or ‘six pack abs’.  Take some time to really think about the things in life that make you smile or things that you have a true emotional connection with that have nothing to do with money or appearance.

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Now that you have this list, I want you to use it as your litmus test for your time spent each day.  Are you focusing your energy and time on the things that bring you the most happiness? And if you aren’t, what can you eliminate to free up some time to focus on the things that bring you happiness. Sometimes all we need is a gentle reminder to lead us in a new direction.

This list will also help with the inevitable crappy days in life.  The five things that make you happy are usually synonymous with the five things that you are grateful for.  So, even when you don’t feel all rainbows and butterflies, referring to your list will remind your brain of happier times and you’ll begin to realize that every day and/or emotion will eventually pass. 

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Here is your homework: OM the moment for your mind by keeping your list with you at all times and refer to it every day.  This list is not set in stone, feel free to change it.  It’s your list.  It’s your happiness experiment.  

What’s on your top five list?  Did you write down more than five things?  Did you find it difficult to list five things?  I want to hear from you in the comments below.  

Make your happiness a priority.  

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