I recently met Donna Connolly from Retirement_Reflections and immediately knew that I wanted her to write a post about Happiness. I’ve only know Donna a short time but she is so upbeat and friendly that we ‘clicked’ straight away – although we live in different countries. That is what is so wonderful about blogging, you meet fabulous people from all over the world who become firm friends.
Donna has had a very interesting life and I would love you to check out her bio, website and social media links which are mentioned at the end of her post.
I know you are going to enjoy Donna’s take on Happiness Revisited.
A warm thank you to Sue for inviting me to submit a guest post for her ‘May Month of Happiness’ series. To be totally honest, I hadn’t given this topic much thought for quite some time. Sure, I consider myself to be happy, but what does that really mean?
A couple years back, when I was still working and living overseas, I took part in a social media ‘100 Days of Happiness Challenge’. Ironically, I recently found out that Sue had taken part in the same challenge, at approximately the same time!
When beginning that challenge, I found that research frequently defined seven key areas as often contributing to happiness.
• Close relationships with friends/family
• Actively engaged in meaningful activities
• Caring for others
• Awareness of own strengths and virtues
• Regular sleep, exercise, and healthy diet
• Spiritual engagement and meaning.
Being an uber-nerd, I used the above seven points to make a ‘Happiness Chart.’ I categorized each of the one-hundred photos that I had posted into one or more of the above areas.
What did I discover? Many things!
My ‘Happiness Challenge’ served nicely as a life-snapshot (which was very cool to reflect upon) as well as a gratitude journal and a travelogue (as many of my posts took place over summer holidays). The majority of my posts focused on relationships with others (fifty-seven posts, featuring over one-hundred and eighteen different people).
Gratitude was also a frequent topic (forty-eight posts). Although I had fewer posts from the other categories, these areas are also very central to my life. They are simply more private and harder to post publicly.
Ultimately, my biggest takeaway was that I am extremely grateful to have the life that I have surrounded by such amazing people. I simply need to avoid getting too preoccupied with ‘stuff’ so that I do not lose sight of the joy all around me.
Sadly, I then put my ‘happiness research away’ and moved on to other things (including more ‘stuff’)!
The World’s Happiest Man
When Sue contacted me about this post, I immediately reviewed my past happiness challenge entries. They made me smile just looking at them! I also began to reread the happiness research.
Here, I discovered Matthieu Ricard. Ricard, a French intellectual turned Buddhist monk, took part in a twelve-year brain study on meditation. His brain scans revealed excessive activity in his left prefrontal cortex compared to the right side of his brain. Researchers concluded that this allowed Ricard an enormous capacity for happiness and a reduced tendency for negativity,
Such findings had never previously been reported in the neuroscience literature. Thus, dubbing Ricard “the world’s happiness man”.
Was Ricard’s advice in-line with the previous happiness research that I had done? Partly. His key recommendations centered upon the following:
- Benevolence and altruism are key to happiness. However, not necessarily for the reasons that you might think. Ricard’s argument is that focusing on yourself all day is ‘stuffy’ and ‘exhausting.’ He adds that comparing yourself to others is the ‘happiness killer.’
- Train your mind to focus on happy thoughts. Ricard believes that we all have the ability to have ‘lighter minds.’ He encourages that as little as fifteen to twenty minutes of meditation (or happy thinking) per day for two weeks can bring positive mental results. Just like athletes build up their strength and skill through their practice, Ricard suggests that we to can adopt this strategy for increasing our happiness. (Source 1, Source 2, Source 3.)
I don’t know about you, but the Chinese character for happiness (fu) has always reminded me of someone (gold) pushing a grocery cart (medium blue). A box of something (green) is falling into the cart followed by a loaf of bread (light blue). Turns out I was not that far off…at least in terms of groceries and full bellies!
The actual Chinese character represents happiness as a full stomach. When the mouth (aqua) is united (light blue) with a cultivated field (medium blue) we are blessed with the abundance of heaven (gold).
Hmmm, I am not sure where this fits into our research. Healthy diet? Spiritual engagement and meaning? Perhaps both!
What are your thoughts?
Have you found any of the suggestions in the ‘happiness research’ to be true for you?
What else would you add?
I look forward to connecting with you in the comment section for this post! And thanks again to Sue for providing this opportunity for me to participate with you at ‘Sizzling Toward Sixty!’
Meet Donna Connolly