Saturday, April 6, 2013

The How of Happiness & Leaving Paris

Yellow by Coldplay on Grooveshark

A lot of friends/people email me regarding my blog and remark that they wish they had my life, someone even said kind of snidely, it must be nice not to have problems.

Let me tell you, at my age or at any age, EVERYONE HAS S* IN THEIR LIFE THEY HAVE TO DEAL WITH.  I do, you do, the pretty lady walking down the street, the guy eating his bagel, every single human being on this planet has something s*tty presently occurring in his/her life.  That is the reality of human existence.  And I have plenty.  I just choose not to broadcast them and in any event, I generally try not to indulge in self-pity which is self-defeating and let's face it, unattractive.

But it is true that overall, my "happiness setpoint," or, my baseline level of happiness, is rather high and I'm pretty much in a good mood all the time.  How do I get and stay that way?

A certain amount of it is inborn.  Long-term peer-reviewed research by the Harvard psychology department on the science of happiness has shown that up to 40% of how happy a person feels is innate.  I've linked to the book "The How of Happiness" which documents seminal research by respected academecians on the science of happiness with realistic/practical methods of actively increasing your happiness.  It is not some feel-good/let's hold hands/access your spirituality and escape from this world type of methodology.  It is based on neurology and it works.

Here is the bottom-line of the department's decades of research:  almost half of how happy you generally feel - even through stressful/hard situations - is genetically programmed into your brain; each individual has a preset baseline or set-point level of happiness that s/he is born with.  An additional 10% of how happy you feel at any time is contingent on the specific circumstance you are currently in.  Can you believe that?  Only 10% of how happy/pleasant you feel at any given time is contingent on external circumstances.  

The great news?  At least 40% of how happy you feel is under your control; no matter the level of your innate happiness setpoint or the external circumstances you are going through, you can manipulate your brain into feeling 40% happier.  

How awesome is that??  Don't focus on the ~60% that is intrinsic and based on external circumstances, focus on that 40% you can control.  Imagine being able to make yourself feel 40% happier even through rough patches in your life!

The book is awesome and I recommend every adult read it.

My self-absorbedness makes me bring this conversation back around to ME.  :-)  Again, I have tons of problems in my life right now, PLEASE TRUST ME ON THIS AND DO NOT BE JEALOUS OF MY LIFE.  In fact, I will always have problems of one sort or another in my life - you will too, I can guarantee you this!

But I make a conscious decision to dwell on the positives; and unless you or your loved ones are going through a life-and-death emergency there are LOTS of positives in your life and a heck of a lot of things to be grateful for.  When I'm feeling down, I immediately write down a list of 10 things I am grateful for at that could be the fresh flowers on my desk, the delicious meal I had, the phone call from a good friend, whatever it is...and immediately, my happiness level rises. It sounds corny, but it works because it forces your mind to redirect its focus on good things rather than bad and to continue to have a positive mindset with an attitude of gratitude for the remainder of the day.  Try it and see!


I leave tomorrow and the only thing I want to do is a last walk through this beautiful city that has taken such great care of me over the past months.   The beauty of its ancient buildings that has remained virtually untouched over the centuries continues to give me so much pleasure and is particularly poignant now that I am leaving.

The beautiful Palais Garnier Opera House, probably the most famous and opulent opera house in the world.  This is where we ended up tonight for a special performance.  I didn't take any pictures inside, it's too tacky even for a photo-loving me, and it was super fancy...but as can be expected, I was mentally drooling the entire time.  

My last night in Paris...and it was beautiful.

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