Archives for January, 2012
When was the last time you were 'in the zone'? Think of a time when you were completely immersed in what you were doing, and it seemed effortless to perform at your peak. Maybe you were doing a work project, playing sports, creating art, studying something interesting, or having a great conversation. For me there are three activities where I lose track of time and get fully absorbed in the experience. These include playing drums, writing and teaching/speaking. I noticed this specifically for speaking while I was conducting seminars last week. There were moments when time seemed to fly by and the words effortlessly poured out. This experience is what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls 'flow' and refers to those moments when we have total concentration and become completely engrossed in what we're doing. We may be no longer aware of what is going on around us and nothing else seems to matter in the moment.
A great starting place to increase our level of happiness is to develop self-awareness, and a great place to develop self-awareness is to understand our personality. There are many different interpretations and theories of personality, along with different tools to measure personality type. Personality is thought to be a set of generally stable and consistent traits or tendencies we possess. These are the natural behavior responses we tend to elicit in any given situation. One theory which has shown to be universal in nature is The Big Five theory of personality. This theory posits that there are five overarching traits that cover our attitudinal and behavioral inclinations, which includes: neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.
On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the highest, how would you rate your satisfaction and fulfillment with the current work or profession you're involved with? If you scored below a 5 ,what's the reason for this? We all want to be happy and satisfied with the work we do, but many people work jobs that they find no fulfillment from. They aren't engaged in their work responsibilities, they're either bored or overwhelmed with stress, and they simply have no purpose or bigger vision for what they do. So how can we find greater happiness with our career?
We all have different personalities. Some people are more introspective and calm, and others are more outgoing and gregarious. I tend to be more introverted, and because of this I have had to put effort into developing lasting relationships. I have to be intentional with my interactions and work to put myself out there. As well, I have learned that the quality of my interactions with others depends significantly on how I'm feeling and the mood I'm projecting. In order to expand and build relationships, the place to start is with us. We must learn to manage our emotions and foster more joy and delight to connect with others. In a previous post I mentioned how the trait of extroversion relates to happiness and life-satisfaction. People with a wider range of social connections tend to be happier. We are social creatures, and expanding and building deeper relationships is in our best interest even if we're not comfortable with this.
If I want to feel happier and more contentment, I try to increase positive emotions, engage in meaningful activities, meditate, and spend time with loved ones. All of these ideas work pretty well, though there are also other aspects of well-being I don't always consider. For instance, I'm not the type of person who counts calories and watches what I eat. Frankly I can still eat about anything I want without it negatively affecting my appearance (though I think my metabolism is finally starting to slow now that I'm 28). Because of this I tend to disregard how my diet and related lifestyle impacts my mood and mental health. By no means do I eat unhealthy, I'm just not highly restricted. However, over the past few months I have set some goals in this area and have now started to incorporate a more well-rounded diet. Coincidentally, I notice a positive difference in my energy level and attitude.
If you're like me, you have to make an effort to slow down, be present, and unwind. We live in a fast paced world with incessant activity and multiple points of attention. This is why learning and practicing mindfulness is such a wonderful tool for experiencing greater emotional and physical health. Mindful practices and interventions such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and general mindfulness mediation have been shown to benefit people with chronic pain, stress, cancer, depression, anxiety, and numerous other mental and physical ailments. Mindfulness can help us to relax, have greater self-control and manage our behavior, change how we think about things, be less judgmental, and develop healthy levels of acceptance. All of which have merit when it comes to our overall health and well-being.
There is something encouraging about a person who has a clear direction in life. The goals they set, decisions they make, and values they hold revolve around a clear mission that offers them significance and engagement. Their life has purpose and it shows. Purpose helps us to establish meaning in life and relates to the goals we aspire to achieve. It is central to our lives and influences thoughts, emotions, and behavior. It spurs our motivation and impacts the decisions we do or don't make, and the influence we do or don't have on the world. What is your life purpose? I know it's a pretty astounding question, but it's worth considering for some important reasons. Research has begun to explore how having a purpose in life may relate to well-being and physical health.
Dedicated researchers offer us empirical evidence about what we can do to enhance our positive emotions, find purpose and meaning, and ultimately increase our well-being. Sharing this message with the general public so it can be applied requires social initiatives and organizations dedicated to this mission. I recently came across one such organization that I am ecstatic to share with you! The organization is called Action for Happiness, and is a movement of people committed to building a happier society. As the site explains, they "want to see a fundamentally different way of life where people care less about what they can get for themselves and more about the happiness of others."