Looking for Happiness
It's not a new idea: searching for happiness. The founders of the Declaration of Independence said it was our right in America for "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Why is it often so hard for me to recognize the good that's all around me when I'm bogged down in the daily problems and unsolvable issues I want to fix?
I've read books about the negativity bias. "The negativity bias is our tendency not only to register negative stimuli more readily but also to dwell on these events. Also known as positive-negative asymmetry, this negativity bias means that we feel the sting of a rebuke more powerfully than we feel the joy of praise." So the good things that happen are quickly forgotten and the painful things are easier to focus on and remember. It helps to know it's not just me.
It's normal to:
- Remember traumatic experiences better than positive ones.
- Recall insults better than praise.
- React more strongly to negative stimuli.
- Think about negative things more frequently than positive ones.
- Respond more strongly to negative events than to equally positive ones. (see this post for more)
What we can do to be happier
There are lots of different ideas and ways to focus on the positive things around us. Some ideas that I really liked were from Dr. Elisha Goldstein. I have his book Uncovering Happines and I highly recommend it if you struggle with feeling "happy." Anyway, I saw his YouTube video about finding happiness in 3 steps.
1. Recognize people, places, and things you are grateful for.
You can write them in a journal or just think about who and what you are grateful for. A gratitude journal can really help you see and remember the good that is right in front of you every day. I often can't see the good when I'm focused too much on the problems I see.
2. Say "thank you" to the people, places, and things you are grateful for.
Saying thanks to people seems more normal than saying thank you to your phone, computer, camera, desk, cup, or whatever object is in front of you. But, I really did say "thank you" out loud to the things I was grateful for and I felt truly grateful for those things I use everyday. I said "thank you" to the trail I walk on every day and I'm also grateful for the snow we need right now. When I start to see the every day things I'm grateful for I feel better.
I believe nature is therapy for me. I feel better outside. I went to southern Utah a few weeks ago and really loved the red rock and amazing scenery down there. I literally didn't want to go inside. So, think of the places you are grateful for too.
3.Recognize how you FEEL when you say "thanks you."
Really feel the gratitude. How do you feel when you say "thank you" and really mean it. For me this really helped. It's simple and it helps me focus on all of the good that is around me. It's perspective.
Problems will always be there for us. It's life. But saying "thanks" will help us recognize what we have and see what we're grateful for.
I think one of the reasons I like taking photos is I love to see the joy in families. No family is perfect but there are moments of happiness and people we are always grateful for.
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