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Ten Keys to Happier Living

Inherent within the human spirit is the quest for happiness. Even the
suicide, says philosopher Blaise Pascal, seeks the happiness of
oblivion. After years of watching individuals seek happiness I came to a
few conclusions: If your happiness model is owning things, it is doomed
to failure. If you lose or miss one or two things the happiness model
collapses. Your inner condition contributes much more to your happiness
than your outer conditions. Happiness is, therefore, a deep sense of
serenity and wellbeing.

1. If you want to feel good, do good. I have recommended and practiced
this technique. Doing things for others, whether small or large, remains
a powerful way to boost your own happiness as well as those around us.
Anna Freud categorized altruism as a mature defense mechanism. In other
words, useful in organizing your environment. The doing good does not
have to be in terms of money, but rather in giving our time, ideas and
energy in the pursuit of happiness.

2. Connect with people. I beyond doubting that individuals with strong
and broad social interactions are happier, healthier and live longer.
One of the first things that I suggest for the socially isolated is
listen to others, provide emotional support and engage in dialog. Even
the dull and ignorant have their story. When accomplished the connection
leads to an increase in your sense of self-worth.

3. Take care of your physical needs. The mind and body connection is
settled science. Being active physically contributes mightily to a firm
sense of wellbeing. I recommend unplug from external stimulation, go
outside, run, walk and press your endurance often. Finally get enough
sleep.

4. Notice the world around you. This is a handy antidote against the
suspicion that there must be more to life. There is! Stop and take
notice. Look beyond the obvious and take notice. Avoid becoming ,what
George Bernard Shaw, saw as a bundle of needs endlessly whining why the
world will not take notice. The world is interesting if subtle. Become
aware and mindful and that wonder becomes apparent.

5. Keep learning new things. The science of brain plasticity tell us
that new synaptic connections and different pathways literally change
the way that you think and expand the depth of your perception. This
keeps you engaged in your environment and deepens your sense of
wellbeing. For example this September is the 100th Anniversary of the
Great War. Tens of millions of soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen
died between 1914 and 1918. Their story and their civilian counterparts
merit recognition.

6. Construct your life as goal oriented. This is the hallmark of a life
well-lived. Feeling good about the future is a byproduct of organizing
goals that challenge you across the lifespan. I have observed
significant change in individuals when they choose ambitious but
realistic goals . The result is the achievement of a sense of direction
that often was heretofore absent. The cumulative effect of
accomplishment over accomplishment contributes significantly to
happiness.

7. Find ways to bounce back during after crises. The expectation of
stress, loss and trauma takes some of the sting out of life's
misfortunes. Preparation of your reaction contributes to having a cool
head in a crisis and is a valuable asset in the pursuit of happiness.
The development of resilience takes several forms. Foremost among them
is a tolerance for uncertainty until the true nature of the crisis
emerges. Tolerance for uncertainty has the double benefit of preventing
rash decisions and developing coping skills, Both lessen the impact of
difficult times upon your psyche.

8. Take a positive approach. You have a choice about which emotion you
can dwell upon. Mind-training to actively seek feelings of joy,
gratitude, contentment, inspiration and pride contribute toward an
upward spiral that builds your resources. Positive emotions cannot exist
simultaneously with the negative. The mid-training teaches you to choose
the positive. I use this as a means to self-soothe myself to sleep each
night. As a consequence I have never suffered from insomnia or any form
of poor sleep hygiene.

9. Comparison to others. Individuals err when they compare their inner
world to another's outer appearance. In clinical work this is a salient
theme. "Why wasn't?" "Why did not…"? Both are common complaints. The
desire for a different past, while often poignant and tender , is a
fool's errand. It is an impediment toward the pursuit of happiness.
Instead I guide individuals to see life as it really is and not as you
wish is was. Practice in this area by rejecting, as illogical, the
desire to change the past, offers the individual a sense of resiliency
that will serve you well in pursing happiness.

10. Be part of something bigger than yourself. This is much easier for
extroverts than it is for introverts. However both need meaning and
purpose for achieving happiness. It can take many forms. In your job. In
your role as parent, sister, brother or caregiver. It can be the area of
community service, volunteerism or religious faith. The point is
becoming connected to something bigger and more important than yourself,
My clinical experience tell me that this is a powerful antidote to
anxiety, fears and depression. I use the example often in the clinical
session about Dr. Victor Frankl. Dr Frankl used his horrible experience
in the Nazi concentration camps during World War II to develop a premise
and later a psychotherapeutic model, that says that meaning in life and
subsequent happiness develops in one of three ways: You can create a
work or do a deed deemed important. You can experience something or
encounter someone in a deeply meaningful way. You can create meaning and
joy through the alleviation of suffering in someone other than yourself.

I find this thought particularly contributory toward achieving
happiness: I have the freedom to choose my reaction in any given set of
circumstances. I have the right to choose my own way- and so do you.