1. Understanding the Nature of Happiness

    April 14, 2016

    Understanding the Nature of Happiness

    Throughout human history, few things have been debated by philosophers so often and so deeply as the nature of happiness. Is it an illusion, or a state of feeling content, either through letting go of anxiety or through attaining a state of satisfaction with one’s life? Is it simply a feeling of pleasure? What does it mean, exactly, to be happy?

    Over the past few decades, those who study happiness have favoured the ranking of one’s overall “life satisfaction” (through questions such as, “On a scale of one to ten, how satisfied with your life are you right now?”) as indicative of one’s relative happiness— a hypothesis which has formed the basis of many of the happiness studies you’ve likely read about. Happiness has therefore been treated as something of a judgment, an equation people process based on observations of their lives.

    This view, logical as it may seem at first glance, may be somewhat reductive, however. Psychologists have discovered there is a curious aspect to human satisfaction that possibly makes it a poor indicator of that elusive quality we call happiness—almost everyone, even those living in the most miserable of conditions (such as the slums of Calcutta), claims to be fairly satisfied with their lives overall. In a recent study of impoverished Egyptians, for example, researchers asked the study’s participants to explain why they were satisfied, and generally received responses following a similar central theme: “One day is good and the other one is bad; whoever accepts the least lives.”

    Of course, the above statement does not exactly dance with ebullient joy; instead, it seems as though the poor Egyptians had long ago accepted the fact that they likely could do little to improve their lot in life, so had decided to accept it and remain as content as possible regardless. Doing so was an act of resignation, but by now it has become so practiced for many of these people that they rank their overall satisfaction with life as being pretty good.


  2. Path from Contentment to Happiness

    December 15, 2014

    Path from Contentment to Happiness

    In 1978 Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote the best seller “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” In it Rabbi Kushner addresses the question of why is it that if we live our lives grounded in positive values must we suffer? It would seem that living a good life should bring us happiness. Yet many of us are not happy.

    The idea of being happy is a common concern expressed in therapy. Positive psychology (or rather distorted interpretation of positive psychology principles) brought a belief that happiness is a normal human condition, as such it is easily available to all. The result of this belief is an often mistaken assumption that not being happy means one is abnormal, that something is wrong with you.

    This search for happiness has become a source of frustration for many people. As a response to this frustration there are plenty of self made gurus, who are more than ready and willing to sell you their secret to happiness. The selection of books, tapes, DVD’s, groups, clubs, and so on seem to never end. Each one promises untold happiness for your life. How to turn every negative into a positive. Sounds good doesn’t it?

    This leaves us with an important issue, is happiness just waiting for you to embrace it as an achievable permanent state of mind?

    The Myth of Permanent Happiness

    The premise of this article is that a permanent emotional state of “being happy” is a myth and the only way to experience happiness is to change your state of mind. What is happiness? It is an emotion. A transitory mental or emotional state of well-being that provides us with necessary information as our response to pleasant or meaningful stimuli resulting in positive or pleasant emotions.

    The problem with the happy emotion is that we are not able to sustain the necessary stimuli to trigger happiness for a prolong period of time. Once our happy emotion has completed its cycle, it stops. What we are left with are pleasant memories. (more…)

  3. A Life of Contentment: The Truth about Happiness

    July 6, 2014

    A Life of Contentment: The Truth about Happiness


    In horse racing there is something called a trifecta. To win a trifecta, the bettor must not only pick the horses finishing in the top three places in a race, but the exact finishing order of each horse. In this article we will lay out our own trifecta. Ours has nothing to do with horse racing though. Rather, it has to do with picking a winning strategy for a life well lived.

    To get started I’m going to ask you to suspend a commonly held belief. That belief is this; “all I need to enjoy a good life is to be happy.” Nonsense! As you will learn, happiness is an overrated temporary response to the alignment of certain events in your life. Happiness is not a permanent state or condition. If it were meant to be permanent we would have no need for the word sad.

    That said, let me assure you that I have nothing against being happy. I enjoy happiness whenever or wherever it may occur. Pursuit of happiness is an important factor in human evolution. My only concern is that in our pursuit of happiness we often overlook those events, people, and situations that may or may not be conducive to our being “happy,” but never-the-less are important. If I may, allow me to substitute here the word contentment for happiness.

    As I will explain, contentment captures the importance of balance in our lives. I like to call this place, a life lived in balance, the good life. Which brings us back to the trifecta. Our race track: the Good Life; the heat: Psychology and mental health; the entrants: in gate #1 is Spirituality, gate #2 holds Meaning of Life; gate #3 Positive Psychology. The rest of the field is made up of a rag-tag assortment of lesser important names. Let’s look at the top three.


  4. My Own Worst Enemy

    February 12, 2014

    My Own Worst Enemy

    by Michelle Blessing


    I want to be happy.  Not just content, but truly HAPPY.  And just when I think I have it figured out, it’s gone.  She takes it away again, leaving me broken and defeated.  Left to rebuild myself, I try again, only to once again almost reach the top of the happiness hill – and she pushes me back to the bottom.  I feel as if I will never win this battle.


    Who is she, you might be wondering?  Well, she is very simply put, ME.  I am my own worst enemy in the pursuit of happiness.  I find myself becoming content with the way life is going, finally settling into a pattern, and then I start to wonder – is this really it?  Have I reached the pinnacle of happiness?  My focus begins to drift, and I start to refocus my energy on the negative aspects of life, slipping back down the hill it took me so long to climb.


    This has been an ongoing battle for me for many, many years.  At one point, I decided I simply wasn’t meant to be happy; after all, not everyone can become a doctor or a lawyer, so why should everyone get to be happy?  Maybe I was meant to live a life of suffering and misery, while others enjoyed the people, places and things around them.


    And then I really started to think about it – what made those happy people different from me?  Why were they so jovial and free, while I was trapped in a prison of unhappiness?  I really didn’t have an answer, so I started doing some soul searching.  Why did their happiness seem so easy, so effortless, while mine seemed to be a full-time job?  And it was in that soul searching that I started to find the answers.


    First and foremost, happiness is not something we can force.  It is not something we can buy, nor is it something we should even strive for.  Let me explain that last part – because I’m sure many of you are scratching your head – I mean, are we supposed to strive for happiness?  Isn’t that what life is all about?


    Yes, it is, but the pursuit of happiness need not be specifically about happiness itself.  Because when it comes down to it, we all define happiness is different ways.  So to say we are striving to be happy has not just one, but also MANY, different meanings.  And that’s okay, but that means that we aren’t necessarily striving for happiness itself, but for the different situations that produce happiness.  Once I learned that happiness was not a quest per say but rather the end result of a journey, I found that what had eluded me for so long was suddenly right at my fingertips.


    So, what exactly did I do?  To start, I quit my 9 to 5 job and went back to school.  I started freelance writing and I spent more time with my kids and my family.  I know that is extreme, but you don’t have to overhaul your life to find true happiness.  Start small with something that you really, truly enjoy.  Take time each week to do that one simple thing.  It might be reading a chapter in a great book, taking a cooking or yoga class or making a telephone call to an old friend.  Whatever it is, you simply must do it.  As you start to make that part of your routine, add something else.  Keep adding enjoyable things to your life, slowly, until you feel that sense of contentment we all long for.  It might not come tomorrow, next week or even next month, but rest assured, as you continue to pursue the things in life you truly enjoy, it will.  After all, life is too short to be anything but happy.

    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/viggum/3536424433

  5. The Key to Happiness When You are Retired

    September 7, 2013

    Retirement and happiness

    Retirement is a time that many people look forward to with anticipation and excitement. After years of hard work, it is often seen as a fantastic opportunity to try new things, see new sights and have a well-deserved break.


    However, it is also a time of adjustment. Some retirees find that they are at a loss without the structure of a working week and there can be questions of ‘how am I going to fill the time?’ For some, retirement can be a period of uncertainty and even unhappiness – particularly in the very early stages. According to clinical psychologists, retirement could cause existential anxiety and lead to severe depression. Experts suggest that the key to living retirement years to the full is by keeping both the mind and the body active. This is something that is true for people of all ages, but retirement offers the opportunity to explore new ways of doing so. And that’s the great thing about retirement; retirees have the freedom and time to maximize living life to the fullest. But what are the best ways of keeping the mind and body active and how can retirees increase their sense of happiness and wellbeing? The key is to remain positive and open minded. Positive outlook and optimism is the best strategy to face challenges in your new life. Positive psychology shows that one can see things more clearly with positive thinking and positive attitude to changes, it makes you healthier. This is a new start, a new opportunity,  time to make new friend, get new hobbies, and explore new places. In this article we will focus on “exploring new places”, retirement is an ideal time to see the world.


    As the philosopher Saint Augustine famously said, ‘the world is a book, those who do not travel only read a page’. Travelling has long been thought of as one of the best ways to stimulate the mind, particularly through seeing different sights and cultures. Whether you decide to have a short break or a more extended travel adventure, exploring the world is a great way of broadening the mind, learning new skills and also simply relaxing. For retirees, the travelling options available are boundless and can be catered to fit with particular lifestyles or health requirements. Listed below are some travel suggestions and a little information on why they are key to your wellbeing and keeping you positive, happy, healthy and fulfilled.


    Cruise holidays


    Sometimes known as ‘floating hotels’, cruises are a great way of seeing the world from the comfort of luxury accommodation. Cruises are often seen as holidays in themselves, but the various stop-offs mean that you can see a wide variety of countries and cultures too. This not only expands our awareness as travellers, but also introduces us to greater diversity. Visiting new places is also a fantastic way of keeping our minds stimulated, primarily because it provides the opportunity to keep learning about places and historical events. Education is a lifelong pleasure, and cruise holidays are a great way to see and do lots of new things.


    Not only that, but cruises are also an ideal way to de-stress and rejuvenate our social lives. Most cruise boats have onboard entertainment, spas and activities for voyagers to take part in, meaning you can choose to simply relax by the pool or get involved with something more active. Cruise journeys are also renowned for being one of the most social means of travelling, and many travellers come away with lifelong friends following a cruise. As most people will know, a healthy social life is key to happiness and life fulfillment, so it is worth bearing in mind this benefit if you are thinking of taking a cruise holiday in retirement. There are a number of different types of cruises available, both on the ocean or on rivers, so it is simply a case of choosing what suits you and your interests.


    Caravanning and touring


    Many retirees are conscious about their budget when it comes to travelling, so it is worth remembering that you can still gain all of the benefits of travel whilst holidaying locally. In fact, discovering what our home countries have to offer can be even more satisfying. Furthermore, connecting directly with nature has been proven to have a positive effect on both the body and the mind, as stress levels are reduced and pulse rates drop. Caravanning or touring is a great way of connecting with nature in this way and they also provide the opportunity to ‘go where the road takes you’. It can be a relatively cheaper option for retirees that are watching what they spend and travel activities can include anything from sightseeing to walking.


    For those who want something similar to caravanning but a bit unusual, a canal boat holiday is worth considering. Many find that the peaceful, slow pace of barge travelling is extremely stress relieving and contributes significantly to their sense of wellbeing.


    Short weekend breaks


    For retirees that want to travel but don’t want an extended holiday, short weekend breaks are a fantastic opportunity to explore a variety of cultures and sightsee. Whether you decide to explore your local area or venture further afield, a short break can be a great way to get involved with travel without committing to too much. Short breaks are especially good as a way of breaking routine and having some time away from daily life. This can be hugely beneficial in terms of health and wellbeing, and many return home feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.


    These are just a few travel suggestions for people over 50 and it is quite clear to see what a positive impact travelling has on both the body and the mind. Whether you choose to go with some of these suggestions or form a travel plan of your own, retirees should think about taking some time to travel during retirement. The benefits are boundless and it really is worth doing whilst you have the freedom and the time to do so.


    Author Bio: This article was written by Lauren on behalf of LaterLife. For more travel tips for the over 50s, visit LaterLife’s travel section.

    Image Credit: Pietro Izzo – http://www.flickr.com/photos/22443621@N00/337320909