“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.”
I assumed that when I achieved certain goals, then I would be happy. When I graduate college, get the job, find the man, get married, have the house, etc., then I would be happy. But the happiness never lasted. There was always another goal to achieve. It turns out humans are wired this way. It’s called “hedonic adaptation.”
Most of my life I’ve been a pessimist (or a realist with a negative bent). It’s easy for me to see what can go wrong with a situation or idea.
One day I came across the following Tony Robbins’ quote on Facebook (hey, where else do you get your inspirational sayings?).
I’m not sure if he is the original author, but this was an eye opener for me. What a concept! I printed it out and it hangs on my office wall to this day, right next to Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow saying “the problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.” Brilliant!
So how can love, grace, and gratitude help us have a happier attitude?
Positive psychology tells us that social support and relationships are strong predictors of happiness (Diener & Seligman, 2002). Our social relationships do more than improve our ability to be happy. They help us to be healthy (Umberson & Montez, 2010). There is a clear link between the number and quality of social connections and markers for physical and emotional health. So spend time with friends. Your attitude and body will thank you.
Grace is our connection to the divine, however you define it. Research demonstrates that having some type of spiritual life contributes to your overall happiness and well-being (Ivtzan, Chan, Gardner & Prashar, 2013). Even if you don’t believe in a higher power, simply practicing meditation on a regular basis strengthens your ability to stay in a happy place (West, 2016, p.259).
This is the powerhouse. Study after study show practicing gratitude improves your mood. I don’t think there’s any mistake that attitude is part of gratitude. Let me take you through an example. I’m driving to work, I’m running late, it’s raining and I packed my lunch because I didn’t have enough money to eat out. I hate my job and I’m fighting with my husband. To top it off some jerk cuts me off and I almost crashed. I’m guessing some version of this will be fairly familiar to most of us. What exactly am I supposed to be grateful for in this scenario?
I’m grateful my car works and I’m not taking the city bus. I’m grateful I have a job to help me cover my expenses, even if I don’t like it. I’m grateful I have food to eat. I’m grateful that the guy didn’t make me crash and I am safe and sound. I’m grateful my husband and I will sit down and discuss the issue as we have every other issue and manage to come out on the other side.
If you want the spiritual experience of happiness, spend time with friends, connect to a higher power, and actively practice gratitude. We may not be able to travel to happiness and stay there, but we can always find our way back.
- Diener, E., & Seligman, M. (2002). Very happy people. Psychological Science, 13, 81-84.
- Ivtzan, I., Chan, C.P., Gardner, H.E., & Prashar, K. (2013). Linking religion and spirituality with psychological well-being: examining self-actualisation, meaning in life, and personal growth initiative. Journal of Religious Health, 52, 915-929.
- Peterson, C. (2006). A Primer in Positive Psychology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc.
- Umberson, D. & Montez, J.K. (2010). Social relationships and health: A flashpoint for health policy. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 51, S54-S66.
- West, M. (2016). The psychology of meditation: Research and practice. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc.