Although happiness may sometimes appear to be a phenomenon out of fairy tales, it can lie in the palm of your hands if you open them up. The community of Cincinnati presents extensive opportunities to get involved and make a difference, which can bring intrinsic happiness. To name a few, the Red Cross, Humane Society and the amenities of the newly built community center. Sure, we face rough weather in the Midwest but that does not mean that the residents of California or Florida are necessarily happier. In fact, one study has shown that Californian’s happiness measures nearly congruent to Midwesterners (Psychological Science, Vol. 9, No. 5, pgs. 340-346). There is power in positive thinking, such that when one makes a chart of the one con of negative weather and aligns it with the pros of security and safety, lower cost of living and greater personal and professional opportunities, Cincinnati looks pretty good! A thriving career coincides with income, yet that should not be viewed as an end all. David Schkade, psychologist and University of Austin, Texas professor of business explains that “money does factor into people’s well-being, it just doesn’t matter as much as how people use their free time.”
Are you leading the life you aspire to live? It has nearly become a commonality that people aim for instant gratification and reward and fail to enjoy the moments. In this way, they avoid situations that evoke insecurity, discomfort and lack of confidence in exchange for the maximization of short-term happiness. In fact, long-term happiness is diminished. It is not the wealth and mix of cultures in the United States that creates happiness, as demonstrated by the World Values Survey, orchestrated by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. In it, Denmark was shown to be the happiest country with the United States in sixteenth place and Canada in ninth. Political scientist, Ronald Inglehart of the University of Michigan explained this by saying that “the happiest societies are those that allow people the freedom to choose how to live their lives.” That being said, it is important to dedicate yourself to strengthening areas of your life like love, friendship, music, reading and sports instead of strictly focusing on material goods and income.
It is especially critical to monitor your child or adolescent to be sure that he/she is optimizing his inherent potential for happiness. Peter Lewinsohn, PhD of the Oregon Research Institute tells that when one experiences bouts of depression in developmental stages “regardless of other factors, pervasive impairments across psychosocial functioning including occupational performance, interpersonal functioning, quality of life and physical well-being” will facilitate long-term depressive symptoms. Provide encouragement and motivation to your child and disagree with him/her if he makes a pessimistic statement. Personality is a factor in creating happiness, such as extraversion and community involvement. William Fleeson, Wake Forest University psychology professor, elaborates on this point by reminding that “we tend to look at the external world for being responsible for our happiness – good things happen to us and then we get happy. What’s exciting about this is that it brings attention to the role we have in our own happiness. All you have to do is act extraverted and you can get a happiness boost.” Put safety first but attempt to say hello to a new person each day and be friendly. Take part in a bible discussion or a lunch get-together at your temple. Figure out what the good life means for you and lay out the steps you need in order to live it. With motivation, a few close supporters in your social network and willpower, there are no boundaries to what one can achieve.
Jamie Lober is a motivational speaker with a background in Political Science, Spanish and Health Psychology. She is also a member of McCain’s Jewish Advisory Committee.