Can we really be happy? Guest Article by Jeff Tsacoumangos
If I asked you what it means to be successful, what would you say? If I asked you if you felt fulfillment and purpose in life, would you respond in a positive way? Many of us are endlessly prodded by society to figure out our “why” and understand the exact reason(s) we were put on this planet. People surrounding us continually stress that we need to be successful, and only then will we find happiness. Growing up, I was no exception to this and was also a victim of trying to represent society’s perception ofbeing “successful.” That means I would have to go to the best schools, get the best grades, and get the highest paying jobs to make it in life. In doing these things, I would then be considered “successful” in society’s standards, which would then allegedly make me happy. This could not be further from the truth.
Allow me to explain what I mean by when I discuss the social distortion that society presents to us on a daily basis. When we turn on the news, it is mostly about the terrible things going on in the world. When we go tosocial media, we see all of the complainers and haters pointing fingers and blaming other people for ruining the planet. Our subconscious mind constantly records all of this and paints a horribly inaccurate picture for the ratio of negative to positive in the world. The overall damage this can do is quite lasting, and will completely change the way you live life. But are we doomed to be stuck in the status quo forever? Absolutely NOT!
We all have a set-zone of happiness that is hard-wired into our brains. That is, we have a threshold that we continually tend to sit within depending on how events unfold for us. If something good happens, we increase in happiness for a bit and then return to our set-zone. If something bad happens, we tend to become unhappy for a bit and then go right back to our default set-zone of happiness. What if I told you that you could rewire your brain for positive thinking? What if I told you that the ultimate sense of fulfillment and happiness can be achieved by most anyone? What if I told you that it was possible to significantly improve your set-zone of happiness and improve most aspects of your life; that there is a science behind all of this? Positive psychology is the field that contains these answers. Positive psychology is the scientific study of understanding fulfillment and happiness in life.
I have actively taken research into my own hands and applied various principles of positive psychology to actually improve my set-zone of happiness and rewire my brain to see the world through a positive lens. In doing so, I have seen endless benefits. Do you think money, a nice job, top degrees, a beautiful car, etc. will bring you long-term happiness? Research consistently and accurately shows that once you have your basic needs met in life (e.g. food, shelter, friends, protection, etc.), additional amounts of external things DO NOT make you happier at all in the long-run.
Every single person on this planet just wants to be happy before they die. Someone may have a different version of “happy” than you do, but it is still the same resulting emotion. So how do we step back from the world and rid ourselves of the ridiculous fears we have about finding our purpose and becoming happy? It may not be as complicated as you may think. Let me break it down into daily actionable steps that YOU can use to change your life.
Step one is to start a gratefuljournal. Go to the local office supplies store and purchase a cheap composition notebook. Every single day, the first you do when you wake up should be to open your journal. Write down one or two things that you are truly thankful for. It could be as specific as a single person or thing. It could be as deep as a memory or situation you went through. Journaling and documenting things that make you happy and feel gratitude, first thing in the morning, prime your brain to think in a positive way for the day.
Step two is to practice mindfulness. Ask yourself: is my mind full or am I mindful? Am I present when I am with friends? Am I always distracted with social media and technology and thinking about work? A great way to practice mindfulness is to work on breathing techniques. After I write in my positive journal, I close the book and close my eyes and breathe very deeply and slowly for 3 minutes (you could do more if you like). While I breathe slowly, I focus only on the air coming in and out of my nose and mouth. I then end with reflecting on my positive thoughts for the day.
Step three is to perform random acts of kindness. Every single day, find something that you can do to help make someone else’s day better. One of the best ways to feel fulfillment and happiness isto give it to someone else. If you can give back and change someone for the better, how could you not feel good? Write a thank you letter for a gift. Send a sweet text message thanking someone for being a good friend. Tell a server at a restaurant that they did a really nice job and deserve a good tip for cheering you up. Pay for someone else’s coffee. These little acts of kindness continue to rewire your brain and create habitual primed feelings of positivity and trust with the world around you.
Step four, the final step, is to exercise. This is where it all wraps up. You do not need to be a bodybuilder. You do not need to run marathons. But you do need to exercise and get your body moving. Get up, get out, get motivated, get healthy, eat better, and build your resilience. Exercise teaches you that your behavior matters. The feel-good chemicals that flood our brains when you workout are the very same chemicals that release in your brain when you have feelings of love. They simply feel good. They pump you up. They get you excited. Dopamine floods your brain when you are happy. It engages the learning centers of your brain, enabling better performance, creativity, and logical thinking. Again, ALL of these findings have been backed by research time and time again.
I thank you for giving me time to share with you one of my many passions. I hope that this material has opened your mind to a new perspective that you may or may not have previously explored in life. We ALL want to be happy. We ALL want to have a purpose. We ALL want to be successful. If there is ONE thing I could leave to this world before my time comes to an end, it would be to provide other people with the knowledge of understanding happiness and purpose; to be able to properly utilize positive psychology
P.S.If you found this article valuable and/or would like to learn more about this, get other resources, or simply just have someone to talk to about any of this, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. I have a psychology page on Instagram (@Psychology_of_Living) that I am very active on and will respond to direct messages and comments there. Alternatively, you can simply email me anytime at email@example.com Master of Science in Industrial-OrganizationalPsychology Student
Vanguard University, CA