As your Downtown Ottawa chiropractor, my passion is to see you living your life to the fullest. A natural side-effect of living well is more happiness. (Notice I said side-effect.)
I find it interesting that in this ongoing experiment of life we’re all a part of, it turns out that there are truths we always return to. There are foundational values of life that when practiced, lead to more fulfilled and meaningful lives. This is no truer than in our pursuit of happiness—and now, scientific studies have proven it!
There are a number of studies that have looked at the beliefs, attitudes and behaviours that cause people to find meaning, purpose, and happiness in life. One of these studies (the Grant Study) conducted by Harvard University encompassed 75 years of data from 1938 to 2012.
There’s no way I would attempt to cover all aspects of these studies (you can look them up or come to my October 20, 2016 Doc Talk at 12:00pm) but I’ll summarize a few take home points.
The first key you need to know is that you can learn the skills necessary for happiness. Only part of our happiness can be attributed to genetics or our environment. It’s important to note that one subject started out at the bottom of the happiness scale but dedicated himself to connecting with others and ended up as one of the happiest in the study.
IT’S ALL ABOUT CONNECTION!
Nurturing close relationships make us happier and causes us to live longer. As we move into our 30’s the quantity of relationships is less important than the quality.
What practice leads to the deepest quality of relationships and connectedness? Vulnerability–the decision to share your authentic heart with others and allowing others to do the same with you without fear of criticism. This is unconditional love–at least our imperfect human expression of it. It works and its wonderful! Practice it! With your spouse, your kids and your community!
PURSUE PURPOSE, NOT A PAYCHECK!
Yes, as a baseline, the happiest people have enough money to pay their bills and see themselves making financial gains towards their future. Ultimately, whether they rose up the company ladder or not their happiness came as a result of finding meaning and contentment in their work. Interestingly, in spite of what Lottery commercials promote, studies show that incomes in excess of $75K gave no greater level of happiness.
MORE TOYS DON’T GIVE LASTING JOY!
We do get pleasure from spending our money however when it’s on material things for ourselves the feeling is temporary. Altruistic spending on the other hand, as in buying something for someone else or donating to a charity, has long-term effects on our levels of happiness. Spending money on a family trip as compared to a consumer item also conferred long-term happiness due to the relationship building and connectedness that resulted. Happiness prefers experiences over possessions.
Those reporting the greatest levels of happiness spent time and money taking care of their health. Healthiness and happiness were inextricably linked. Their health was a priority.
As one of the study’s directors, George Vaillant, puts it, “There are two pillars of happiness. One is love and the other is dealing with life’s challenges in a way that doesn’t push love away.” ……”Happiness is about love–full stop!”
I believe pursuing happiness is the wrong goal. We’ve all heard people say things like “I just want to be happy”, or “I deserve to be happy”, as if happiness could be handed to them on a plate (yes, I know—chocolate not withstanding!). In my mind, happiness isn’t real, in the sense that it exists as an entity unto itself. No, it’s a feeling. It comes as a side-effect of living to your core values. Happiness is an aroma. Like the scent of a flower or smoke from burning incense. You can’t truly enjoy the aroma without the existence of the flower or incense. Although science will continue to look for chemical shortcuts to this holy grail called happiness, as it turns out, the grail isn’t found in the result but in the process! The process is about LOVING OTHERS!
Dr. Derek Haughton B.A., D.C.