Monday, February 13, 2012

Better Than Chocolate

It's almost Valentine’s Day and we will be bombarded with movies, TV specials and a landslide of things to buy to show our ‘love’.  The flowers sellers and candy manufacturers  are working around the clock. The LA Times reports that jewelry sales rose 7.7% last year, recovering somewhat from the previous year’s recession so bling is back. 

Don’t get me wrong; jewelry is great. I’m a fan!!! I also think that flowers and candy, especially chocolate, brighten the day, but let’s think for a moment about how to create a lasting sense of well-being (hmmmm, jewelry does last and candy lasts on my hips). Seriously, there are ways to increase the general level of happiness and satisfaction with our lives.

Be Grateful

"Grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress. The disposition toward gratitude appears to enhance pleasant feeling states more than it diminishes unpleasant emotions. Grateful people do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life." - Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough

Being grateful does not ignore trouble or true suffering. However, it does remind us of all the important, good things and people in our life and that increases feeling good.

Appreciate Having Choices

From Dr. Linda Edelstein -> Researchers in New Zealand performed a meta-analysis of 638 research studies that asked 420,599 men and women (mean age =37) from 63 different countries about their Health, Wealth and Happiness. They found that a strong sense of well-being could be predicted if a person scored high on individualism, personal freedom and autonomy.  Money was found to be useful for buying things and making life comfortable because it gave people choices but, the drive to “DO AS I CHOOSE”, meaning high individualism, personal freedom and autonomy was more important in determining overall well-being.

So, well-being seems to increase as we have the ability to make choices in our lives; it makes sense. Can there be too much of a good thing?  Yes, too much individualism separates families and causes anxiety which is not conducive to well being.

Source: Fischer, R. and Boer, D. What is Important for National Well-Being? Money or Autonomy? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Vol. 101 #1, p 164-184, 2011.

How To increase Happiness

Choose friends who are joyous people.  See them frequently and you will find your spirits rise. The older I get,  the more I make it a priority  to spend my time with people who give me joy. If you have any constantly unhappy people in your life, limit the amount of time you spend with them. Try it; you'll perk up !

People with strong, extensive, happy social connections tend to be the happiest people, probably because they are reminded that we are all in this together. The sense of belonging is important, as is that reminder that we are one little piece of humanity.

"A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out." Walter Winchell

So, for this Valentine’s Day, I hope that you are enveloped by good friends, cheerful people, grateful remembrances, and the freedom to choose.  And, let’s get real - some milk chocolate, a dozen roses and a little something from Tiffany.

"Love doesn't make the world go round, love is what makes the ride worthwhile."  Elizabeth Barrett Browning