While everyone is responsible for their own happiness and their own lives, happiness can also be found in the little things as a way to appreciate and live in the present.
Medical Advisor Óscar Ignacio Giraldo, Psychologist
There are no recorded risk factors or symptoms of happiness; while it is a feeling, it is not a disease. In short, happiness can be defined as, “How we evaluate the events of our lives,” Óscar Ignacio Giraldo explains, Director of the Psychology Department at Universidad de Antioquia in Medellín.
We each experience happiness from our own perspective; from what we learned in our childhood, from achieving or not achieving the career we want and from needing to reach the goals we establish for ourselves. We all build a world of emotions that are rooted in this overarching feeling, which is difficult to breakdown into categories and define.
“People act in accordance with the understanding they have of the context that surrounds them. It would be very strange, for example, for someone to show signs of happiness in a place where a tragedy or a difficult time has occurred. From this point of view, our reactions are therefore influenced by different situations and chance events, both small and big; such as with the social obligation to be happy, for example,” states Dr. Giraldo.
According to one of the findings of the Study of Adult Development published by Harvard University (U.S.) this May, the key to a happy life lies in the quality of our relationships whether these are partners, friends or family members. This study followed 700 men and women for 78 years. It has also found that people can deceive themselves with what they feel is important to leading a happy life.
Happiness is possible
Studies on happiness are relatively new. They began towards the end of the nineties together with positive psychology, a branch of psychology that focuses on the strengths of individuals instead of on mental illness.
“It is very important for each individual to learn to be aware of the present. The majority of the time our minds are set on the future and in the past and not on the here and now, on what we are doing. Being more aware of our surroundings, of what is happening to us, of what we eat and of what we are actually doing allows us to have a better perspective and to accept each situation that happens to us as something that will also pass,” Giraldo points out.
On this path to mindfulness, we slowly learn to find happiness in the simple and small things: eating ice cream or having coffee with a friend or family member, enjoying a beautiful view of nature, taking a moment out of your work day to say “I love you” to your loved ones, having gratitude for each new day and making a list of the things you are grateful for. These can be considered daily exercises for learning “…to be where you are, in the here and now, and not where the mind wants you to be.” Make the effort and challenge yourself to live in the present.
Keep in mind
Conducted by the National Planning Department, and among other findings, the first study of happiness in Colombia found that with an average score of 3.5 over 10, women worry more than men, whose average score was 3.2. The study’s participants included all age groups and socio-economic strata.
Keys to happiness
Tal Ben-Shahar, a specialist in positive psychology and author of the book Even Happier claims that this attitude can be learned the same way you learn to ski or play golf: through proper technique and practice. This expert provides six general tips for feeling successful and happy about your life:
1. Don’t just pardon your failures, celebrate them: It is impossible to try and live your life perfectly and not have any negative feelings; this is part of life. Be observant of these feelings and take responsibility for them.
2. Always be thankful for everything you receive: Don’t take things for granted. Take stock of the good in your life, from your child’s smile to your good health.
3. Stay active: Doing gentle exercise like walking fast for 30 minutes a day is enough; working in the garden or dancing are also good activities.
4. Simplify your leisure time and your time at work: Identify what is truly important to you and focus on that. Try not to compare yourself with others and act in alignment with your life goals.
5. Learn to meditate: This simple practice is learned through observing your breath and setting aside time to be on your own. Meditation helps to fight stress and allows you to be mindful of every moment.
6. Practice a new skill, resilience: Recovering from the ups and downs of life or from big tragedies depends on your attitude and on your state of mind, not on what is in your bank account.
2.4% is the percentage by which men are happier than women in Colombia, according to the National Planning Department.