Recently I’ve come across two magazine articles on what makes people happy—one from Psychology Today’s August 2013 edition (www.psychologytoday.com) and the other from Outside Magazine’s (www.outsideonline.com) January 2014 issue. As we enter a new year it seems fitting to contemplate what makes us happy, or perhaps what will make us happier in 2014.
Both articles site numerous happiness studies done recently—from cutting-edge neuroscience—regarding what seems to make we humans happy. Predictably, Outside’s angle is based on doing things to be happy—get up early, play in the mud, cranking your tunes, staying hydrated, training with a team, having healthy eating/drinking habits and volunteering. But, the focus here is also on being unselfishly happy, that those who have an innate sense of happiness also have a deep sense of purpose and meaning in their lives, something much bigger than themselves. In fact, they say that these same people tested in a research project actually had a stronger expresion of anitviral and antibody genes, and thus had a powerful positive effect on their health. Wow—so being happy can actually have a positive impact on our genetic code!
Psychology Today nets happiness down to this—people who experience long-term happiness are very curious people who knowingly “invest in activities that cause them discomfort as a springboard to higher pshchological peaks”. In other words, happy people tend to be risk-takers, folks who purposely stretch themselves to learn and grow and create memorable experiences that are in some way life-changing. They come back different from these experiences….stronger…better.
So as you contemplate the year ahead, what’s your sense of your own happiness right now? If you’re in a good place, by all means celebrate! If not, what do you want to do about it? Perhaps this is the year for taking stock and then taking action, for getting intensely curious about yourself, your purpose and the world around you, and taking some risks. Perhaps this is the year you summon the courage it may take to truly become an explorer and adventurer in your own life. What might that look like for you?