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Did you know that Happiness Day has been celebrated every March 20 since 2012? United Nations adviser Jayme Illien proposed creating an International Day of Happiness which views happiness as a fundamental human right. The UN General Assembly agreed to make this day an international celebration.
These days it seems people are so busy with the day-to-day grind they lose sight of what really matters in life. From demanding work and family obligations, to the 24/7 bombardment of online information, it’s no wonder we’re all so overwhelmed!
While it’s great to have a day to celebrate Happiness Day, shouldn’t we find ways to cultivate happiness everyday?
This month, we’ll talk about the practical applications of happiness with Dr. Mark Rogers (who guest posted last year).
Mark is a neuroscientist from Australia. He’s passionate about how brain science and neuropsychology give us deep insights into developing ways to improve our lives.
With many years’ research experience and over 40 papers published in international peer-reviewed journals, he combines his strong science background with a deep concern and respect for the spiritual aspect of our existence.
He shares practical and powerful, yet easy-to-use techniques by which we can all improve both our own lives, and the lives of those around us.
Q: With the daily demands of everyday living, it’s so easy to lose track of what really matters in life. Self-care and happiness often takes the back burner. What kind of effect do you think this has on people’s overall health, relationships and personal growth?
A: It’s not a perfect world and we have periods where looking after ourselves gets put on the back burner. It can’t be helped and there isn’t any point making things worse by beating up on ourselves because of it.
Nevertheless, letting it go on for too long, particularly if it becomes habitual, can be harmful. I believe that one way of minimizing this risk is to see yourself, and your happiness, in a broader context. Trying to appreciate how your actions in life contribute to your happiness, even if they aren’t always all about you, can help.
Q: In many cases it seems like happiness is tied to a life purpose or cause. Do you think people need a life purpose to be happy or is it okay for them to “drift” in the obligations of things like the traditional 9-5, family, mortgage, debts, etc.?
A: This is an interesting question! I don’t want to sound like I am playing word games, but it really does depend on what we mean by a “purpose in life.”
For example, I believe that caring for a family and doing the best you can for them can be a perfectly fulfilling purpose. I don’t think there is any need to feel ashamed or lacking in ambition or imagination for having such a purpose.
Similarly, I think it’s fine for someone to have different purposes as their needs and beliefs change during their journey through life.
Q: What are your thoughts on adults NOT knowing what they want to be when they grow up? Could this be because of societal expectations pressuring them to be someone they’re not? Or could this be from people not knowing what their life purpose really is and deciding not to align their values with how they live their lives?
A: Societal pressures can certainly mislead and distract you from finding a life that is genuinely fulfilling to you.
We are all bombarded with messages telling us what we should want and what we should value. In the face of that, it can be difficult to hear your own heart, and all too easy to doubt it even when you do.
Regarding alignment with our values, let’s say one of your values is “honesty.” Living a life aligned with that value is likely to be good for you as well as those around you. But it doesn’t necessarily suggest a specific purpose other than being honest.
Whatever our values are, there are many ways of living those values. I guess one answer is to say that living a life consistent with your values is a good purpose in life.
Q: With technology making it easier than ever to access information, you’d think that more people would be on their way to having access to creating better lives for themselves and being happier.
Are things really easier than in past analog, non-digital times or have we just created another way to get overwhelmed and stressed out?
A: Information overwhelm is a real problem. It’s difficult to sift through the information to find something of value. Furthermore, the constant flood of information can make it hard to stick to your course. A common example is exercise and diet.
So many of us start an eating and activity plan, but before long we hear of a newer “better” way and switch to that. Then a week or so later we move onto the next thing, The best diet plan of all is whichever one you stick to long-term – provided it is not harmful of course!
Persisting with a program is so important to gain benefits from it, but it also builds resilience and trust in yourself.
Q: What simple action steps would you suggest people do that could improve their feelings of fulfillment and happiness in their everyday lives?
A: Studies show that the big difference between happy and unhappy people is not money, status or looks.
It is simply the number of times a day that you feel positive.
And it doesn’t have to be a huge, deep, ecstatic blast of elation. It can just be appreciating the weather, singing along to the radio or having a laugh.
I think this is the reason why practicing gratitude is so powerful. It’s an easy way of noticing the good things in your life; the things that give you a little wave of positivity.