Pursuit of Happiness -- Think It to Achieve It?

By Corinna Bowers

According to the field of positive psychology, the pursuit of happiness is all in your head. This concept is gaining ground and developing a following after a decade of research. The experts in this field say that learning to accentuate the positive over the negative could tip the scales. 

Positive psychology is an "orientation about the way life is that focuses on a positive viewpoint," says Alex Zautra, a professor of clinical psychology at Arizona State University and leader of its Resilience Solutions Group. 

Research indicates that people who adopt an optimistic outlook may be better able to deal with crisis situations. Zautra reminds us to know that we don't have to be happy all the time. Understanding that happiness and unhappiness are both essential components to a whole life can be the key to bouncing back after a tragedy. 

Who's happy?

The Pew Research Center reports these statistics:

- Just a third (34%) of adults in this country say they're very happy. Another half say they are pretty happy and 15% consider themselves not too happy. These statistics have remained pretty consistent for the past 3 decades.

- Nearly half (49%) of those with an annual family income of more than $100,000 say they're very happy. By contrast, just 24% of those with an annual family income of less than $30,000 say they're very happy.

- Married people are happier than unmarried people.

- 28 percent of 18-29 year olds report being very happy, making them the unhappiest of all age groups.

- 38 percent of people 65 and older report being very happy, making them the happiest age group

- Married people with children are about as happy as married people without children

- Pet owners are no happier than those without pets

What's so great about optimism anyway? Well, it can improve your response after tragedy, can lessen the negativity associated with smaller letdowns, and may make you feel more fulfilled and accomplished. Experts agree that while your general outlook on life (optimistic vs. pessimistic) tends to be set by puberty, you can train yourself to become more optimistic.

So, what can you do?

Jonathan Haidt, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia offers a five-step system for realizing your pursuit of happiness:

*Take a good look at yourself

Assess your personality and your coping skills. You can find a wide array of questionnaires and surveys at http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu to help you analyze your overall happiness, optimism about the future, gratitude, and more. 

*Improve your attitude

Try meditating for 15 minutes a day, every day, for a month

*Reach out to others

Figure out how to spend more time with your friends and family and less time at the office or by yourself.

*Find a job you love

No matter what your work is, write out the ways in which your work helps people, contributes to the common good, or does something that people find pleasurable.

*Do something for someone else

Join an organization that has a noble purpose. Volunteer. Share. Ask, "What can I do? How can I help?"

The pursuit of happiness doesn't have to be a struggle. Utilizing some of these tips and resources, you can train yourself to be happier, more optimistic, and lead a more fulfilling life! 

About The Author: Corinna Bowers is a personal life coach who can help you move your life forward with a purpose! Sign up for her e-zine at http://www.focused-momentum-lifecoach.com/e-zine.html to receive monthly inspiration and education on a variety of life's challenges.