The Soul Sister on Happiness: Part 2

Laughter - William Vermeulen

This article picks up where last week's left off. We've defined happiness (a permutation of joy) and found that it's always a by-product of another activity. What's next?

New ways of thinking

There are new movements emerging that hold promise for a middle position that might be easier to achieve for most of us who like the pleasures that life offers, but would like to find a greater meaning, or maybe just savour life more.

The Positive Psychology movement has done the research to prove what the Human Potential Movement of the post-'60s practised for a long time; quality of life can be improved by: the cultivation of pleasure, appreciation of everyday beauty, most importantly, meaningfully connecting with others. These are ways in which to learn how to be happier.

Some of the old Western Philosophers have been teaching this for many years, but solid evidence-based research is convincing for the Rest of the World, and it's a nice confirmation for therapists like myself who embraced these ways long ago.

While Cognitive Psychology seems to get all the official attention, I believe it's crucial to offer an easy entry point for people who want to restart their lives. This is supported by the psychoneurologist Antonio Damasio, whose book The Feeling of What Happens (the bible of Psychoneuroimmonolgy) stresses that the entry point for change is via emotion, not just thinking.

How to go about it

A happiness clinic seems to me to be an efficient way of getting people to restructure their thinking, which can be very fuzzy, especially when they're depressed. But as always, you need to find what works for you, and the good news is there are many options to choose from.

I think is it wonderful to see that we can learn to be happier - that we can make a choice in our life - to become more content. After all this seems to be what most of us really want, and research shows that the happiest people have good personal and family relationships, money, rewarding work, healthy leisure pursuits, and positive religious and spiritual practises.

The implication for physical health is also substantial - the much quoted longitudinal study on nuns found that those with positive outlook lived longest. Surely more motivation to invest in learning Happiness.

And if movie star Goldie Hawn is anything to go by, happiness is learned. She openly shares her experience of coming out of a long-time depression, and now has a foundation to help improve children's capacity for learning through happiness. She has certainly trained the happiness muscle she describes so well!

Following are a few resources to help start your journey, although you may also find having someone guide you through short-term therapy may be very rewarding for your long-term progress.

Authentic Happiness

William Bloom

The Happiness Project

The Hawn Foundation

To submit a question, email soulsister@hereisthecity.com. Unfortunately, she can't answer all questions or enter into correspondence.