Not only is happiness a word that the scientists who study it avoid using, but it’s also something neither they nor most of the rest of the population can agree on a definition for. What is happiness? How do you know if you have it? If you don’t have it, what can you do to get it? And if you do have it is it greedy to want more?
Happiness is sort of like the weather. There are aspects of the weather that we can agree on a measurement for, like temperature, barometric pressure, precipitation, or windchill factor. Where the confusion happens is when we try as a collective to decide on one “best weather”. I like it warm and sunny but not humid. My 16 year old likes it really hot and humid and my husband loves a cooler, more crisp temperature with occasional rain. To add to the fact that each of us has a different “best weather”, our judgment changes if we are on a boat, on a ski hill or hiking through a forest- it’s contextual.
Happiness is a lot like this. Some people describe it as peaceful. Others would say joyous or invigorating. Some equate pleasure with happiness where others associate it with a warm embodied hope.
The good news is The Happiness Reset (my book) is designed to help you to decide what your best weather is across all the contexts of your life.
Here’s the model:
The individual challenge is to decide how you want to feel and then to figure out what you need to do more or less of to maintain that feeling. These six domains contain a smorgasbord of options.
The domain of purpose includes sub-topics like:
Sense of Meaning – ask yourself “to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?”. People who have a high rating on this question live lives characterized by health and wellbeing.
Intentional Living – One of the best ways to derive fulfilment in life is to work on projects you initiate intentionally.
Accomplishment – Martin Seligman, the founding father of Positive Psychology, includes accomplishment as foundational for happiness. In his model purpose and accomplishment are two separate domains. I see them as too connected to separate and I see too many instances where hyper-focus on achievement depletes happiness. By combining purpose with accomplishment we ensure that achievements are for the greater good.
Greater Good – As mentioned above, questioning whether your actions are personal for the benefit of your community can act as a GPS to purpose.
The domain of social connection includes:
Cultivating Trust and Respect– the foundation for all relationships, be they friendships, romances, or workplace relationships relies on trust, respect and vulnerability.
Fixing Friendship Stumbling-blocks – the skills of finding and forming friendships is often left to chance rather than taught. The skills to fix a relationship require the ability to communicate clearly and to find a balance of give and take. There is also a skill to apologizing and overcoming hurt, Knowing how to leave a toxic relationship is also important.
Belonging vs Fitting In – learning to be who you are rather than who “they” want you to be.
The domain of letting go includes:
Forgiveness – To forgive is to stop feeling angry or resentful towards someone for an offence, flaw, mistake or something they did that was wrong. Forgiving is more for the forgiver than the forgivee.
Conscious Action – Awareness and intention help you maintain present moment awareness, keeping the past and future at bay.
Detachment – In order to acquire something, you have to relinquish your attachment to having it. When you recognize that the only genuine source of security is living as your true self, then you can more easily detach.
Acceptance – awareness of the present moment without judgment.
The domain of self-knowledge includes:
Character Strengths – the scientific classification of 24 universal traits that provide a common language of what’s right with you.
Core Values – fundamental beliefs that guide principles, dictate behaviour, and can help people understand the difference between right and wrong.
Habit Formation Tendency – what strategies work best for an individual to do (or stop doing) something.
Personality Type – the psychological classification of different types of individuals.
The domain of Positive Experience includes:
Positive Emotion – Developing the ability to initiate, prolong, and build emotional experiences that feel good.
Flow – also known as being “in the zone”, flow is the mental state where performing an activity is immersive and energizing. It requires a meeting of challenge and skill as well as enjoyment in the process of the activity.
Prosocial behaviour – doing something that benefits others.
The domain of Mindfulness includes:
Meditation – is the practice of embracing internal stillness with intentions of ultimately reaching a different level of consciousness.
Savouring – the use of thoughts and actions to increase the intensity, duration, and appreciation of positive experiences and emotions.
Reflection – the examination of one’s own conscious thoughts and feelings.
Presence – paying attention to the present moment without being drawn into the past or forecasting the future.
The domain of gratitude includes:
Feeling – the physical sensations that accompany the experience of the emotion of gratitude.
Expressing – the verbal or physical action that shows someone you are grateful.
Receiving – having gratitude for something you are, did, or said expressed to you.
Each of these areas offers unique was to enhance your happiness. Learn more by reading my book The Happiness Reset- What to do When Nothing Makes You Happy. Available November 15th on Amazon.com.