Happiness: A few thoughts.

Happiness comes in many different shapes and forms. For some reading a good book and sipping a cup of fresh tea is the definition of bliss. Yet, for others happiness manifests in getting active, which can range from training for that half-marathon to getting the sweats on during a Pilates class. Team AMELI has put together some thoughts and ideas on how we introduce moments of happiness into our daily lives.

 

Today, March 20, marks a special day: International Day of Happiness.

 

What that is, you might ask. Well, it is a day dedicated solely to the celebration of happiness. Established by the United Nations almost 10 years ago, it is designed "to recognize the importance of happiness in the lives of people around the world." With the public awareness now directed at this topic, the team at the AMELI office started to discuss everything from the meaning of happiness to the right to be happy, and even the most fundamental definition of happiness. While we unanimously agreed on every person having the right to a happy life, the pathway there was what divided the spirits. 

Martin Seligman, author of Authentic Happiness and at the forefront of Positive Psychology, and Christopher Peterson focused on three pathways (feeling good, engagement & doing good) to happiness based on their empirical research. Based on the theory, each of these elements is better defined and more measurable than happiness. The basic idea is that happiness is not the result of good genes or luck, but of the right focus, or choice of pathway. Happiness comes from focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses.

 In Authentic Happiness, the author emphasizes that identifying and using the strengths and traits we already possess fosters happiness. This, amongst other things, includes optimism, kindness, generosity and humor.

  • Feeling good: It might sound obvious but maximizing pleasure and reducing pain, on a general level, increases happiness (more on that below).
  • Engagement: Research found that people's satisfaction in their everyday activities is much higher when they are fully engaged in what they are doing. So, in terms of happiness, being namely totally immersed in your favorite book and concentrating on a new task at work is a good thing.
  • Doing good: Lastly, happiness also seems to be linked to the individual belief system. As it was already emphasized by Aristotle, knowing your true self and acting in accordance with your virtues cultivates happiness.

Now all of this is very interesting in theory, but what actually makes people feel good? The AMELI team tries to give an answer to this question and unveils a (non-exhaustive!) list of little moments of happiness that can be consumed without moderation. 

Meditating mindfully, cooking a new healthy recipe, going for a walk in the brisk morning air, enjoying a glass of wine or relaxing to the calming sound of your cat’s purr. All these simple pleasures of life brighten our daily lives in these uncertain times. Maybe the following happiness boosters can give you some inspiration too.

 

Anecdotally linked for a long time and personally noticeable for many of us, health and happiness go hand-in-hand. Scientific evidence even suggests that positive emotions can help you live a longer and healthier life. As happiness researcher Robert Holden states, “[t]here is no true health without happiness”. What our grandmothers knew all along, that laughter sometimes is the best medicine, has now been backed by research from the relatively new field of positive psychology. When you laugh, happiness hormones (endorphins) are produced and the release of the stress hormone adrenaline is reduced.

 

As with everything, there is always a first step. Although getting stuck in front of the computer happens all too quickly, especially during these times of comfy-pants and home office, it is your body and soul will thank you for that daily dose of movements. Besides multiple studies proving the benefits, remember that happy feeling and clear thoughts after a run outside (Thank you BDNF protein and serotonin)?  Why not try to make walking (or running, for those who like) a fixed part of your routine? We humans do, after all, love our daily routines.

 

In practicing meditation, we are helping create the conditions necessary to experience a happy state of mind. Meditation counteracts stress, helps to reduce anxiety, to increase blood flow, to slow down the heartbeat: The benefits of meditation are manifold. It even appears to boost the immune system! Developed by Dr. Ellen Hendriksen, Boston University Anxiety Disorders Center, the 5-4-3-2-1 method is a mindfulness exercise that involves all five senses. Let us take you through it:

 

  1. Settled in and comfortable, we look around us to identify 5 elements of our environment.
  2. Then, we focus successively on 4 things that we can hear: the sound of footsteps in the apartment, the song of the birds through the window, music playing from the neighbors below...
  3. We touch 3 things within our reach: the yoga matt, a ring around a finger, the stitch of our sweater...
  4. We then identify 2 things that we can smell: our favorite perfume, freshly washed linen...
  5. And finally, 1 thing that we can taste: that sip of water, the morning coffee before...

Sometimes we have to let go a little in order to arrive.

 

At times, cooking is as effective as a mindfulness meditation session. And for good reason: Some recipes require precision and exceptional concentration. Following the steps in a recipe as reassuring as it is soothing. Not to mention the satisfaction of accomplishing something with your hands for yourself and those you love.

We included one of our favorite authors to follow: Nadia Damaso reveals recipes that are as delicious as they are sensible. The young cookbook sensation has made happy (and equally healthy) foods her mission truly lives by her mantra “eat better, not less.” And the recipes are actually as tasty as the beautiful photos suggest! Hint: Some of her recipe creations are available on Coop FOOBY. 

 

Last but not least, let us not forget about one of the most powerful sources of happiness: the human touch. The benefits of physical touch, and the biological stimulation that comes with it, go beyond social bonding and can manifest positively in your mental and physical health. Do you even remember all the times you felt down, and a simple hug made everything feel better? Us neither. The biggest magic lies herein.

 

So, let’s spread some happiness (and hugs) today, dear AMELIs!


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