Be present in the moment. Practice acceptance, gratefulness and kindness.There you have it – the skin-and-bones formula for happiness – according to the philosophical deep thinkers and psychological experts who study such matters. Sounds so simple, yet is so elusive.
Happiness is so important to human beings that in 2011, the prime minister of Bhutan, a tiny kingdom in the Himalayas, proposed a global day of happiness to the United Nations. Since 2012, March 20 has been designated as World Happiness Day. According to the World Happiness Report for 2017, Norway is the world’s happiest country, followed by Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and Finland. The United States ranked 14th with the UK 19th.
Yes, the report cited seven primary factors that bolster happiness: caring, freedom, generosity, good governance, honesty, health and income. But the true essence of happiness boils down to the ability to appreciate what you have, to find joy in life and your outlook toward others. How else can you explain the optimism of those who seemingly lack life’s basic necessities? Or the crusty, negative attitude of those who have all the material Advantages?
“Every moment is a given moment,” says David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, in his video on getAbstract, Want to Be Happy? Be Grateful. “You haven’t earned it. You haven’t brought it about in any way. You have no way of assuring that there will be another moment given to you. And yet that’s the most valuable thing that can ever be given to us – this moment, with all the opportunity that it contains.”
In his 2014 book, Serve to be Great, author Matt Tenney tells an amazing story about his ability to practice mindfulness while serving a 5-1/2-year prison sentence. Tenney learned to focus only on the present and not be distracted by random thoughts. He attained peace of mind in the moment – as long as he didn’t compare being in jail with his past life or focus on thoughts about the future.
Though it’s virtually impossible to be happy all of the time, contentment is always within reach. Getting worked up over a traffic jam or a long line in the supermarket is useless; acceptance of the situation mitigates anger and teaches patience.
In her 2016 book, The Happiness Track, author Emma Seppala maintains that stressed-out employees conditioned to believe that multi-tasking is essential for success will experience physical and psychological distress. Achieving your goals does not guarantee happiness. In fact, she writes, happiness leads to success – not the other way around. Treat yourself with kindness and compassion. Failure is a learning opportunity, not a label.
Writes behavioral science professor Paul Dolan in Happiness by Design, “It’s actually quite easy to be miserable when our beliefs and behavior conflict, when we set lofty expectations about ourselves, or when we can’t even accept ourselves in the first place. You are happiest when you have a balance between pleasure and purpose.”
Indeed, “purpose” is a key element of being a happy employee, according to a survey of more than 2,500 employees in Denmark conducted by the Happiness Research Institute, the trade union Krifa and TNS Gallup. The report, Job Satisfaction Index 2016, available on getAbstract, examines a country in which an astounding 94% of employees consider themselves satisfied with their jobs. And their happiness has little to do with salaries and perks.
“It is not happiness that makes you grateful,” says Steindl-Rast. “It’s gratefulness that makes you happy.”