We are drawn to happy people because they are fun, make us feel good about ourselves, and they are compatible to most everyone. One of the healthiest ways to become a natural success in life, is to teach yourself how to become a happier person. “Aging happy and well, instead of sad and sick, is at least under some personal control,” says Dr. Vaillant, author of Spiritual Evolution: How We Are Wired For Faith, Hope And Love. Happiness is a choice, and while the media may tell us it is a direct result of material (stuff), luck, and other outside factors. Research has shown us a much better way to this yellow brick road.
1. Let Go of the Need to Be Happy
The first thing you need to understand before you set on your path to creating greater joy is to realize that the harder you try, the more difficult it will become. Dr. Vaillant tells us that the mind is happiest when enjoying life as it is, rather than trying to make it into something. He gives the example of gardening to make his point. When we cultivate a garden for the wonder of creation, we can be happy. When we foster that same garden to be the best at it, setting goals and competing with others, it no longer is joyful. Looking for a good man can be fun. However, if it becomes a competition, or a race to find “the one”, you lose the ability to enjoy the experience. By focusing too much on finding joyfulness you are robbing yourself of the opportunity to be happy now. “Enjoy where you are,” says Dr. Vaillant. “All this youth and health, and (fear) that you are not going to amount to anything—(But) by the time you are 45 to 50 (most everyone) amounts to something.” Happiness is a byproduct of discovery and experience, so why not enjoy the ride to eventual success.
2. Understand Your Limits
Happiness is not limitless, so it is important to set reasonable expectations for yourself. Every person’s joy level is 50 percent genetic and 50 percent mindset. People tend to level out at a particular happiness, and while that can be improved, it is not likely to change suddenly. Take happiness in stride and allow your body’s set point to increase gradually as you learn to enjoy the little things in life. Watch your alcohol consumption. As easy as it is to blame your drinking on a string of bad relationships, studies show excessive consumption of alcohol is most often the cause of poor relationships and not the other way around. Everybody has their limits, so know yours.
3. Develop a Healthy, Adaptive Lifestyle
People make other people happy, and a big portion of that is knowing how to cope with your own emotions and then dealing with them. Vaillant broke this down into two categories, immature and mature. “Adaptive (empathetic) defenses from age 20 to 50 are an important predictor of (ones) success,” says Dr. Vaillant. “You have to keep your sense of humor, give something of yourself to others, make friends—learn new things, and have fun.” People with immature defenses, will have a difficult time developing relationships and finding happiness. The coping mechanisms responsible for this fate, include narcissism, blame, hypochondria, projection, and denial. These are all things that the unsympathetic dater can recognize and change. “With hard work and/or therapy, our relationships with our spouses and our coping styles can be changed for the better,” says Dr Vaillant. “A successful (life) may lie not so much in our stars and genes, as in ourselves.”
4. Remember the Little Things
Dr. Vaillant has given a lot of advice on being happy, but his greatest and most simple is to enjoy your relationships with other people (including family and friends). In order to accomplish this, a person must have a healthy mindset, which Vaillant offers several tips to accomplish. First, stop smoking and exercise regularly. Not only does health and exercise promote a fit mind, but having someone to workout with promotes better quality relationships, according to studies. If you truly want to have a strong, fit body, the most important organ to workout is the brain. This can be done by practicing empathetic coping techniques and maintaining positive emotions. This includes such learned emotions as love, compassion, forgiveness, gratitude, hope, joy, and trust. Vaillant also says to avoid holding your anger in, as by inhibiting this important emotion, it limits the potential of our relationships and career.
5. Final Word
When all is said in done, it is not the years you have added to your life, but the life you have added to your years. Remember, finding love and happiness is on your side, so sit back and enjoy the discovery of a new experience, rather than burrowing yourself in the fear and sorrow of loneliness and regret.