March 30, 2023

THE ART & SCIENCE OF HAPPINESS

Happiness is a sweet and simple, yet often presents as complex and multifaceted, emotion, desired life state and way of being that is influenced by both the art and science of collective daily living. It is a feeling and sense of contentment, satisfaction, and fulfillment that comes from living a life that is in harmony with our values, beliefs, and aspirations. Happiness is a state of mind and a state of being that can be cultivated and nurtured by following certain principles and practices. The five primary pillars of happiness, the seven key components of well-being, and an overarching emphasis on community, gratitude and joy are vital factors to embrace in order to establish and enjoy a fulfilling life.

The five pillars of happiness (PERMA) are the foundation upon which a fulfilling life is built. They are: positive emotion and pleasure, engagement, meaning, positive relationships, and accomplishment. These pillars were first proposed by Martin Seligman, a pioneer in positive psychology. He believed that these five pillars form the core of a happy and fulfilling life.

Positive emotion and pleasure refer to the experience of joy, pleasure, and contentment that come from living a life filled with positive experiences. These could be as simple as a smile, a laugh, or a hug from a loved one. Positive emotion and pleasure are essential for our mental and emotional well-being, as they help us to experience the joys of life.

Engagement is the integrative flow state that we experience when we are fully immersed in an activity that is challenging and rewarding. This could be a creative pursuit, a sport, or a hobby. Engagement helps us to focus our attention and use our skills to the fullest, leading to a sense of involvement, accomplishment and satisfaction.

Meaning is the feeling of purpose and significance that comes from living a life that is in alignment with our values and beliefs. Meaningful activities could include volunteering, engaging in a cause that we care about, or pursuing a purposeful career that we are passionate about. Meaning helps us to feel connected to something greater than ourselves and gives us a sense of fulfillment and purpose.

Positive relationships are the connections we have with others that are supportive, loving, and nurturing and can include family, colleagues, and even strangers. These relationships provide us with a sense of belonging, social support, and emotional comfort.

Accomplishment refers to the sense of achievement that comes from setting and reaching goals. Accomplishment could be anything from finishing a project, achieving a personal best in a sport, or completing a degree. Accomplishment gives us a sense of pride, self-esteem, and confidence in our abilities.

The seven key components of well-being include spirituality, physical well-being, intellectual wellness, emotional health, social integration, financial stability, and love. These components, among others, have long been identified by many happiness and quality of life researchers, coaches and organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO) as essential for maintaining optimal health and well-being.

Spirituality is the connection we have with something greater than ourselves. This could be a higher power, nature, or the universe. One way to cultivate spirituality is to practice mindfulness and meditation, which can help us to connect with our inner selves and find inner peace. As Deepak Chopra says, “Spirituality is not just about religion, it’s about living life with meaning and purpose.”¬†Spirituality gives us a sense of purpose, meaning, and direction in life.

Physical well-being is essential for maintaining optimal health and wellness. This includes exercise, nutrition, sleep, and rest. Practicing yoga, taking a daily walk, or engaging in any form of physical activity can help us to feel better both physically and mentally. Physical well-being helps us to maintain our physical health, energy, vitality and longevity.

Intellectual wellness refers to our ability to learn, think critically, and solve problems and can include education, reading, and engaging in intellectually stimulating activities. Reading a book listening to an educational podcast, or taking an online course can help us to expand our knowledge and improve our cognitive abilities.

Emotional health is the ability to manage our emotions and maintain a positive outlook on life. This includes self-awareness, emotional regulation, and mindfulness. Techniques such as deep breathing, journaling, and practicing gratitude can help us manage our emotions and maintain a positive outlook. Additionally, sharing space and time with cherished family and friends regularly instills a deep sense of emotional well-being.

Social integration refers to our ability to connect with others and build supportive relationships. Spending time with friends and family, volunteering, or joining a community group can help us to build social connections and feel more connected to the world around us.

Financial stability refers to our ability to manage our finances and maintain financial security. Financial stability includes budgeting, saving, and investing so that we can always access and invest in a sense of abundance rather than lack. Financial stress can be toxic; By taking control of our finances and setting financial goals, we can reduce stress and increase our sense of financial security.

Love is a vital component of well-being and refers to our ability to give and receive love, compassion, and kindness. Love includes self-love, romantic relationships, family relationships, friendship, relationship with planet, love of pets and beyond. Practicing loving kindness and compassion towards self and others can help us to feel more grounded, connected and fulfilled.

Happiness is both simple and complex and is influenced by a variety of factors related to the art and science of living. Understanding the key components of well-being and adopting certain practices can help us cultivate happiness in our lives.

Living intentionally with purpose, mission, and respect for self, people, and planet is an important aspect of cultivating happiness in our lives. This involves setting goals, creating a vision for our lives, and aligning our actions with our values and beliefs. As the Dalai Lama says, “The purpose of our lives is to be happy.”¬† In the book The Art of Happiness, A Handbook for Living, His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Howard C Cutler, M.D. share a conversation in which the Dalai Lama points out the importance of understanding and respecting that there is a significant difference between happiness and pleasure: “Now sometimes people confuse happiness with pleasure…. the highest happiness is when one reaches a stage of Liberation, at which there is no more suffering. That’s genuine, lasting happiness. True happiness relates more to the mind and heart. Happiness that depends mainly on physical (or external) pleasure is unstable; one day it’s there, the next day it may not be.”

Maintaining a good work/life balance is also crucial for cultivating happiness. This involves setting boundaries, prioritizing self-care, and making time for activities that bring us joy and fulfillment. Sometimes, taking a break from productivity and simply enjoying the moment can be the most productive and soul-nurturing thing we can do.

Community, gratitude and joy are also essential for cultivating happiness. Building strong connections with others and expressing gratitude for the positive things in our lives can help us to feel more fulfilled and content. Research has shown that expressing gratitude can improve our mental health and increase our sense of well-being.¬† Actively reminding ourselves and others that our truest essence and highest expression is pure, good and deeply rooted in love, and expanded in simple and connected intentions, moments and offerings of joy instantaneously, consistently and miraculously works wonders for the world. Perhaps it’s time we all make a deeper commitment to being, sharing and spreading the love.

Understanding and applying the five pillars of happiness and practicing the key components of well-being, living intentionally with purpose, mission, and respect for self, people, and planet, maintaining a good work/life balance, and cultivating community, gratitude, and pure joy, are the collective and fundamental elements in the foundational equation of the art and science of happiness. As Albert Schweitzer said, “Happiness is the only thing that multiplies when you share it.” By mindfully and proactively comprehending, integrating and nurturing these components and comprehensively adopting and applying these practices, we can cultivate happiness in our lives for a more fulfilling and satisfying existence.