Nic Marks

Director, Happiness Works

This conversation is closed.

Can we really become happier? Happier ourselves? Can we create happier places to work? Or even happier societies?

Happiness can often seem elusive ... like love ... the more we chase it the more it seems to slip away from us. Can we really become lastingly happier? Are such efforts worthwhile or futile?

What about organisations and businesses? Can we create happier organisations? Would they be more effective or simply not be competitive?

How about whole societies? Should governments be seeking to help citizens lead happier lives? Or is that somehow sinister?

The new emerging science of happiness and well-being seems to offer some insights but the real world is not the same as controlled experiments.

What do you think? What are your favourite recipes for happiness?

Take part in this Live Conversation this Wednesday, 11th January at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 6pm GMT (my time zone in London!)

Closing Statement from Nic Marks

Well I enjoyed 'hosting' this conversation very much ... we touched on so many topics from the meanings of happiness, the pathways to happiness and a look at the darker side of depression and suicide. We talked of determination, choice, acceptence, contentment and love ... of generosity and poverty ... of consumerism and education ... of passions and curiosity, mediation and exercise ...

It seems to me that a conversation about happiness can get to the core of the human experience ... and in a world facing difficulties of today and tomorrow (a MLK quote!) it could just be that thinking and having conversations about human happiness could be the start of a quiet revolution of our shared world ...

Thanks for talking with me today

Be well

Nic

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    Jan 11 2012: One tool for overall happiness is meditation.

    Now, one of the first things you learn from meditation is that it's possible to be happy while doing "nothing." At least as far as the outside world sees it, just sitting there and focusing on your breath is basically "doing nothing." The feeling of meditation is something I'm not sure I can explain to you unless you've meditated before. But I suppose it's similar to any experience you've had where you were just sitting there, and where you felt absolutely content in that moment; maybe while watching a sunset, or sitting on your porch. It's in these moments that you are simply "there," just existing, with no thoughts (or worries or desires) about the past or the future.

    In many of my meditation sessions, there were many moments where I could say I felt truly happy -- just sitting there. This was not an entirely new concept to me, but in a society so obsessed with "doing" and "working" and "accomplishing" and "succeeding," it's easy to forget that it's possible to be happy, right now -- before you've "accomplished" anything. And jumping off of this idea, I couldn't help wondering: if it's possible to be happy doing something so seemingly mundane as just sitting there, then maybe it's possible to be happy doing almost anything in life, no matter how "exciting" or how "boring" it is.

    And so I couldn't help seeing the work and careers that we do through this lens as well. I observed that there are happy and unhappy people in any profession. There are friendly waiters and grumpy ones. There are kind policemen and cruel ones. There are rockstars who abound with happiness and others who kill themselves. And there are rich corporate CEO's who are miserable in their greed and others who find peace in their wealth. All of this can occur because your mental state -- and specifically your ability to "live in the moment" -- creates happiness, not the things you "do" for a living.
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      Jan 11 2012: Awesome!!! I do meditate and I totally know what you are talking about! Meditation is happiness, because then you listen to your soul, to your subconscious mind, to your heart... and you discover yourself... you discover the wealth within you and it boosts your ego, making you happy... :)
    • Jan 11 2012: I nurture hope every morning by praying and reading the Bible, which is my source of hope. My term is "quiet time".

      So I concur. :)
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      Jan 11 2012: The best thing is meditation which I just started recently.
  • Jan 11 2012: I work with a company in Canada that strives to help individuals to create balance in their lives. Since I have started to practice what I teach, I have certainly become more aware of my happiness. I will find myself smiling and glowing internally for the sheer fact that life is good, not perfect, not stress free but still good.

    My biggest breakthrough was to realise that being happy is a choice that we make over and over again throughout the day. We can suffer through our misery or we can chose to work through it and be happy regardless of it.

    The structure of the business that I am in makes us a family. We are there for each other and can be counted on whenever we need help. There is no competition, no back stabbing, no walking over people to make it to the top. I have never experienced anything like it before.

    As long as individuals have the choice to be happy there is always hope that society will follow.
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      Meli D

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      Jan 11 2012: Thank you for sharing this! I am going to pass this on (with quotes and your name, naturally). :)
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      Jan 11 2012: smiling is signal that i can be approached ... smiling more will for sure bring us into the realm of relationships more ... indeed there is a famous study that looked at college photos - those smiling in them were much more likely ten years later to be employed - be happy - be married etc etc (even earnign more) ... being happy CAUSES good outcomes ...
      • Jan 11 2012: I was going to say, happiness starts with a smile. Even when I don't feel like smiling, I do. It not only changes the way I feel, but also changes the way people around me act. It can't be a fake smile, though, has to be a real one.
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        Jan 11 2012: Nic, it seems to me that saying being happy CAUSES good outcomes doesn't nail the idea on the head. I think being happy is a reflection of one's mindset, and that mindset, worldview, weltanschauung, or whatever you want to call it, is the thing that causes good outcomes. My work focuses on helping folks modify their perception. And perception is often the only thing within our capabilities to change.
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          Jan 11 2012: yes ... happiness that is congruent - coherent with you and your circumstances will be instrumental in creating a set of actions that creates a virtous circle ... it is a complex process! (and i can't type fat enough to express all of my ideas right now!)
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        Jan 11 2012: Yes, Nic...one of the college studies of which you speak is the case study Marty Seligman examined at Penn.

        The women were in fact, nuns, who researchers chose because they had similar lifestyles, backgrounds, (obviously- religious beliefs!), and gender orientation. The studies in this particular case study with the nuns found that the nuns who had smiled int heir yearbook photos proved to live longer, happier, healthier lives (into their 80's and 90's, as opposed to their non-smiling counterparts) and had a greater sense of positive well being throughout their adult lives.

        Although one is not able to "put on a happy face," on demand, we all have the ability to improve our overall well-being with finding relief through consciously choosing the next best thought or feeling.
    • Jan 11 2012: The realization that we have some control over our happiness is very empowering. Being aware of our choice to either be happy or not is very important!
    • Jan 11 2012: Smile to the world and see the world smiling back at you. indeed your strong relationship with your family is what drives you to happiness.
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      Jan 11 2012: The spirit of cooperation with which we approach any activity, be it at school, work, family, clubs...helps people to see we are team players. Like Mr. Marks mentions also, a smile, something so simple, and free to all of us, can disarm even the saddest of people.

      When we have peace ourselves, because we have found purpose in our own lives, we are able to give peace to those around us. Our words are kind, our actions are in the spirit of contributing to others' well-being. There is definitely more happiness in giving than in receiving. This, for me, is a big KEY to true happiness.

      When we know we ourselves are happy, then we can be on the look out for those that are not, and we can do something about it. In turn, we will be more and more happy knowing we are helping others. This I truly truly believe to be a secret that many need to discover.

      Just my humble opinion.
    • Jan 11 2012: to Sue Liko: your job is really nice and I agree with what you wrote
  • Jan 11 2012: Happiness is just one facet of human experience. As a particular aim for our lives or society, happiness is overrated. Why not think about being a kinder, more forgiving person, or working on making a more just society, securing the rights for minorities, helping the poor and needy, ... , etc as intrinsic aims themselves, rather than making people (me or others) happy? There are more worthwhile things to be done.
  • Jan 11 2012: Seeing life as an adventure and experiment to discover what I am capable of; listening to informed points of view but remaining objective; never losing a childlike wonder and curiousity about the world and the universe; earning the love and respect of people I admire and being able to express and reciprocate those feelings; to value life, love, passion and compassion, hard work, knowledge, intelligence and imagination, and above all valuing all that is for the long-term benefit of humanity over short-term personal profit.
  • Jan 11 2012: Happiness doesn’t exist on the far side of distant mountains. It is within you, yourself. Not you, however, sitting in idle passivity. It is to be found in the vibrant dynamism of your own life as you struggle to challenge and overcome one obstacle after another, as you clamber up a perilous ridge in pursuit of that which lies beyond. Daisaku Ikeda, my mentor
  • Jan 11 2012: Doesn't this require eliminating some of the marketing strategies used today? Every day some company is trying hard to convince me that I'm not happy as I am, and I need to buy their product. Plastic surgery is an extreme example of this, but I think it also applies to companies making and selling granola bars. How does a competitive marketplace respect happiness rather than trying to abuse it?
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      Jan 11 2012: Yes - this is the BIG lie at the heart of the consumerist society ... to sell us products (that we don't need!) companies have to convince us that we would be happier if we had them ... think of all the waste - both of human effort/talent and the planet's resources - that goes into this process ... if happiness research teaches us anything it is that the currency of happiness is relationships and time - not material goods ...
      we can use money to buy (and give!) experiences of course ...
      • Jan 11 2012: Are there examples of economies based more on service rather than products? Is that the pitch to use to get big business (and their money) behind a move which will increase happiness? If it requires eliminating some of the basic consumer market ideas, it's going to be opposed by people who are currently making huge profit there.
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          Jan 11 2012: Very strong vested interests at play here! See Tim Kasser's work on materialistic values ... but i do think businesses are starting to think more about experiences than products ...
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        Jan 11 2012: Yes, but unless you bring happiness to relationships, they can be a source of unhappiness. We must manifest happiness from within. Happiness is something you share with others.
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    Jan 11 2012: I think happiness is something you have to learn, you have to grow and get yourself in a place where you can understand really who you are, I really think we came into this world to learn how to be happy, and that is a process you can not live alone, so you have to build relationships with the others, with your enviroment and so. So we can create happy places? of course we can, a whole society, we can also, not easy task, but it is the challenge!!
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      Jan 11 2012: Well said ..we can also, not easy task, but it is the difficult challenge! !
  • Jan 11 2012: One man that should not be left out of a conversation about happiness is John Stuart Mill. Mill spent the entirety of his life literally from the time he was six learning greek till his death in 1873 thinking about happiness, Specifically in the form of utility i.e. "The greatest happiness for the greatest number" or the greatest happiness principle. He was trained up by his father in one of the most rigorous courses of education in the history of the world, and by 20 Mill had his first nervous breakdown, in which all of his conviction about the things he had been taught were called into question. This breakdown would repeat itself at other times in his life, but the conclusion he comes to about happiness is known as the Paradox of Hedonism. The paradox was realized by mill when he began to question himself asking '"Suppose that all your objects in life were realized; that all the changes in institutions and opinions which you are looking forward to, could be completely effected at this very instant: would this be a great joy and happiness to you?" And an irrepressible self-consciousness distinctly answered, "No!"' Mills conclusion at this was that if your objective is happiness, you could not go at it directly. If you do some action solely with the intent of increasing your happiness, when you review and ask the question "did this work" you will find that it didn't. upon much time of reflection Mill concluded with this thought: "But I now thought that this end [one's happiness] was only to be attained by not making it the direct end. Those only are happy (I thought) who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness[....] Aiming thus at something else, they find happiness along the way[....] Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so."
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      Jan 11 2012: Something else.. quite true. Just reading comments is making me happy.
      .
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    Jan 11 2012: I am one of the people out there that believes happiness is a choice we wake up and make each day. We have the option of letting fear, hate, and intolerance consume us - they find us no matter where we are. But if we choose peace and happiness we will find it every time.
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    Jan 11 2012: Recipes for happiness? We all know the things that can bring us happiness in a fleeting moment - which has great value.... For lasting happiness however, there is no short-cut to doing the work on ourselves. My experience in finding lasting happiness is layered with many ideas but a start is: 1) The pursuit of finding and living one's mission on earth. Going after it with the same intensity as if you were thirsty for water in a desert. 2) Choosing self-acceptance love and compassion in every moment possible. 3) Working every day to remove the blocks that make us feel stuck, numb, or shut down. 4) Connection to others, hugs, feeling loved, playing. 5) Acceptance that pain is always going to be a part of our existence - (when a loved one dies, the longing to be loved etc.) - And removing resistance to that reality.
    There is so much more to say!
  • Jan 11 2012: I've found a great deal of happiness through meditation, a deeper lasting happiness than the things that I used to think made me happy, like food or owning new things, or even the temporary thrill of success or stimulating ideas. It has turned my life around, and although I'm glad that a great deal of research on the neuroscience of meditation is demonstrating its positive benefits, I don't need anything more than my own profound experiences to convince me. People who know me tell me all the time that I have changed since I started. It's not a quick fix though, it requires time and patience, but working deeply on yourself, and not blaming other people or circumstances of your life, is the only way to get past our habitual patterns.
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      Jan 11 2012: Hi Adam, I have also started meditation and from the first time I was amazed with the relaxation and peace I had inside. Could you share your method with me? I would like to try new ways. Thank you!
      • Jan 11 2012: Hello Shabnam! I practice mostly vipassana, or insight meditation, which has been the most beneficial to me. But I have explored many types of meditation including movement meditations, which are also wonderful. Anything that we do that brings us into the present moment, and out of the stories in our heads, if only for a little while, is a meditation. See what works for you and stick to it, is my advice!
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          Jan 11 2012: Thanks Adam! Would you advise any good web-site, or a channel where I could learn different types of meditation? So far I have done the original meditation (sitting straight, breathing, eyes closed, concentrated), but I would like to try other types as well.
      • Jan 11 2012: I chant Nam Myo Renge Kyo. I am a practitioner of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism and a member of Soka Gakkai International. I have been practising for the last 6 years and it has turned my life around from one of sadness and mere existence to one of joy and happiness, even in moments of struggle and challenge. http://www.sgi.org/ for more info about our organisation.
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          Jan 11 2012: My sister chants ... she has found it very calming ... mindfulness training has also been shown to be very beneficial to happiness ... and of course one of the most popular sports is fishing ... and if that is not mediation then i don't know what it is!
      • Jan 11 2012: I practice with a Buddhist group here, they have some resources on their site: http://imcw.org/Resources.aspx

        Since many people are anti anything religious, probably especially on ted, I want to make it clear that not only are there forms of meditation for every religion, but it doesn't have to be religious at all. There is a program called MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) which is completely secular and is researched in hospitals: http://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/stress/index.aspx

        While a lot of western yoga is very workout oriented, originally it was intended to aid the body in sitting meditation, and a good yoga teacher can teach a very mindful class.

        For some of the brain research about meditation, check out Dan Siegel: http://drdansiegel.com/
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      Jan 11 2012: Agreed. Meditation brings wonderful benefits, the most is "absolute" happiness. (see below)
  • Jan 11 2012: There is plenty of evidence to show that creating a happy workforce leads to a higher levels of job satisfaction and lower levels of staff turnover, absenteeism and presenteeism. Business in the Community has a couple of examples from our awards last year... http://www.bitc.org.uk/resources/case_studies/afe3029.html http://www.bitc.org.uk/resources/case_studies/afe3000_1.html
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    Jan 11 2012: I spent two long years on looking for happiness... I read about it, chased it, learnt it, observed it and found it... Being happy requires a training. Like a baby, who learns to walk and falls down a lot, you also need to train yourself to stay positive, peaceful and happy no matter what... Every person has a frequency. Those, who are on high frequency are happy. How do you lift your frequency? Every kindness you do for others, every positive thought you think, every smile, every "thank you" lifts your frequency... And like a baby mastering walking, by time you also master happiness...
  • Jan 11 2012: I believe making self happy is one step to create happier society and also creating happier environment to others is also creates happiness to self. Making self happier by taking others happiness in a selfish way destructs self happiness no mater how late it will be. Just follow the 10 Commandments not just only for religious purpose but also for creating better love and peace!
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    Jan 11 2012: I've given up being happy. Emotions are reactive and I don't get to choose how I feel. I do get to decide how I react to life and all the circumstances that affect my emotions. I make a conscious decision, every day, to be content, which seems much more important than my being happy. Even in the midst of continual medical issues, job loss, financial setbacks, I am content. Because of my contentment, I am able to look for the significance in each situation. And because I look for significance, I find it easier to live in contentment.

    If I were to focus on being happy, there would be so much disappointment, too much.
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      Jan 11 2012: I do know what you mean ... and happiness can be understood in different ways ... short term pleasures (more closely related to emotions) and medium/long term satifaction - functionality ... we'll never be high-emotion happy all the time ... indeed that would be dysfunctional ... but listening to our emotions can give us feedback on how to live our lives ...
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        Jan 11 2012: Absolutely - emotions can give us feedback. I try to listen to my emotions, especially when they catch me off guard. "I wonder why I'm feeling that emotion right now?" Looking at the emotions let's me make better decisions on how to deal with those emotions, and the situation that caused them.

        And even though I believe we don't get to choose emotions, I am also a believer that what I think affects how I feel, and how I feel affects what I do. I may not be able to change my circumstances, but I can certainly change my perception of them, which will definitely affect my emotions, hopefully making me happier, in the midst of my contentment.
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      Jan 11 2012: But that consciousness makes you happy isn't. Happiness has many faces.
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        Jan 11 2012: Happiness does have many faces. As a school counselor, I spent a lot of time talking with students about emotions, and that emotions aren't good or bad, they're just emotions. Certainly some emotions are more comfortable than others, and we might prefer one over another. But we don't get to choose our emotions. When someone jumps out of the dark and yells, "BOO!" my fear is not a choice, nor can I choose not to be afraid. The emotion of fear happens in response to the circumstances.

        Likewise, happy is an emotion (at least in my life and my definition). So it's not something I choose. And faking happiness is worse than being unhappy.
        • Jan 11 2012: Do you make a distinction between "happy" and being content, being at peace, being joyful, being hopeful?
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    Jan 11 2012: I'm happiest when my actions have a purpose and match my ethos. Which is sometimes a difficult state to acheive.
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      Jan 11 2012: A sense of purpose - a feeling one is moving in the right direction is great for our long term happiness ... I think I always astounded my friends when i was young (i am not so young now!) ... but when i was I used to think about how it would be to be old looking back on my life ... had i led a life i could be proud of?
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    Jan 11 2012: I wish I had found this conversation with longer than two minutes left to comment. Such is life. Seeing as I have sixty seconds, I'll leave this with a quote I heard. not sure who said it.

    Happiness is like a butterfly. Chase it and it will always elude you, but divert your attention to other things, and it will come and rest quietly on your shoulder.
  • Jan 11 2012: Happiness is a way of life. Sharing kindness and positive energy can change people around us & impact our community. Being grateful for life, health and all the blessings in life are essential for happiness.
  • Jan 11 2012: Very interesting discussion. I have come to understand that there is a huge difference between happiness and joy/contentment. It is very difficult to be happy when someone close has passed away but it is possible to be at peace and have joy. This may be just semantics, of course, but I feel that happiness depends on circumstances and cannot be chosen.

    Contentment, peace, and joy all are choices and depend on hope.
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      Jan 11 2012: I think we can choose where we put our energies ... our attention ... and if we choose wisely happiness flows out the side ... tis elusive - we can't go directly for it (like love!) ...
  • Jan 11 2012: What about the role of memory in happiness? I often ascribe my ability to be happy to how easily I forget social slights. A lot of unhappiness seems to result from dwelling on how people have wronged you or how you behaved imperfectly.
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    Jan 11 2012: Happiness is just a matter of choice... If you decide to be happy, you will find reasons to be happy...
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      Jan 11 2012: Dolly Parton says this! I once wrote an article about why she was 50% right ... basically our environments are also important ... harder to be happy with an abusive partner/parent ... harder to be happy if your friends and family are dying of malaria, HIV/Aids or in conflicts ... more people thrive in benign environments and more sink in deprived ones - but some struggle in objectively very nice circumstances and others do well in spite of adversity ... we are ourselves and our environments ...
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      Jan 11 2012: For myself, this is completely true! When I was homeless and completely unloved, I was still very happy. I wasn't happy about my situation, but I still giggled and found silly things funny. You really do decide.
  • Jan 11 2012: "To the degree we have desire, to that degree we suffer."
    Bhante Henepola Gunaratana. Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness (I strongly recomend it)
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    Jan 11 2012: I think happiness is an idea, we are sold the idea that we can be happy if we do such and such. In truth, I've usually found myself being 'happy' when doing absolutely nothing. I was just paying attention to what I was doing and where I was and voila! I've since read books on being here now and it's a recipe that works for me. I notice that when I start living in the regrets of the past or drown in the worries of the future I get agitated. But the moment I come back, I feel a sense of relief, that can be called happiness.
  • Jan 11 2012: Everyone's personal happiness plays out very differently just based on each person's definition of happiness. However, if everyone was happy, it would certainly make the work place and or community a much better place. Does that mean not everyone is happy? not sure

    Example; You may hate your job but live a very fulfilling life outside of work.

    Each person's Paradigm is what defines their definition of happiness
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    Jan 11 2012: Happiness is the result of inner harmony. It can't be bought or provided by anyone.

    To give an example. I wasn't happy with my work at first to use an understatement.
    At one moment I realized that it was my attitude that made it as bad as it was.
    As I changed the work became fun because I loved to do it right, do it the best way possible, got incredible results.
    Happiness you have to bring out from within and can't be brought in from outside.
    You can't chase it, just be in peace by acceptance and doing the best you can while being, concentrated, mindful and alert.
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    Jan 11 2012: Nic, I love your work in the world. I absolutely believe that we can become lastingly happier as individuals - and within highly effective organizations as well. Happiness (and love) create an experience of being open and moving forward. Fear and other emotions that do not fully embrace happiness create an experience of contraction and holding back. I see this every day in my coaching practice with people. When people remove the blocks within themselves and they come alive, they walk through life with full strides. They become exponentially more effective in their lives in every way.
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    Jan 11 2012: (my comment was deleted. I am reposting)

    There are two types of happiness: relative and absolute. Relative is dependent on the environment, such as getting a new car, seeing your boyfriend, laughing at a funny show. But when those things disappear - your happiness may disappear as well. With absolute happiness - it's about manifesting the highest possible life condition (energy) so that you are able to be happy even in dark times. It's taping into a life condition of happiness that is inherent in everyone. It takes work but you can achieve absolute happiness through helping others, and through making good causes- but mostly through meditation.
  • Jan 11 2012: In Bhutan, they have Gross National Happiness instead of GDP. Have you read about this? Their government wants their people to be happy, and that is what is most important to them. I love it!

    I think we could become lastingly happier. Unfortunately, happiness can take some work. I think our mindsets play a major role in it, and there is so much pessimism that can get in the way. We need more happy thoughts, fueled by ourselves and those around us!

    The recipe for happiness can be as simple as showing gratitude and lowering your expectations (somewhat). For example, our expectations of others can cause us to become sad and disappointed when said people do not uphold to them, and that is not their fault, it is our own for having them! Also, we need to accept change and be okay with not having control over everything, or even having control over most things. Looking on the brighter side of situations can definitely improve your mood and elevate feelings of happiness, but always thinking about what you do wrong and what would make your life better does the opposite. Furthermore, having goals and something to work toward that is reachable can make you happier. There are just so many ways to BE happy!

    I feel that some societies want instant gratification and for everything to go their way all the time, and that is not realistic or healthy. We can be our own downfall, and we can get in our own way of being happy, but often times we blame others for how we feel. Pointing fingers instead of dealing with problems and emotions solves nothing. Better coping would be another way for us to be happier.

    I'm sure there is more I could say, but it would take too much time, and I would run out of characters to use on here. In conclusion, let's be happy, people! :-)

    P.S. SMILE MORE!
  • Jan 11 2012: I think it's important to distinguish between moments of happiness, which can be meaningful but transitory, and happiness as a more general state of being, perhaps more akin to being content. And I view happiness as a habit that can definitely be learned and practiced so that even when an individual encounters setbacks, s/he have the resilience and the confidence to accept that happiness exists along a range of emotions and can be regained.
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    Jan 11 2012: Nic, I love your work in the world. I absolutely believe that we can become lastingly happier as individuals - and within highly effective organizations as well. Happiness (and love) create an experience of being open and moving forward. Fear and other emotions that do not fully embrace happiness create an experience of contraction and holding back. I see this every day in my coaching practice with people. When people remove the blocks within themselves and they come alive, they walk through life with full strides. They become exponentially more effective in their lives in every way.
  • Jan 11 2012: Sometimes happiness can only be gained by comforting ourselves. But in fact we dont get the real satisfaction so we are unhappy. To make ourselves happy, we just say to ourselves that "it's no big deal, at least i have A,B,C... dont care that much, just keep moving on and improve" it's like a kind of fake happiness. Is it better to be "unhappy and true" or "be happy and fake "?
  • Jan 11 2012: I believe we can achieve happiness, and make happier environments. But the question is what each one of us understand by happiness. I believe that happiness doesnt come from the attachment to physical or emotional things/concepts, on the contrary I believe that happiness comes by eliminating all attachment and desire, such as Buddha taught. No good effects come from vicious actions, if we intend good we will receive good.
    I also think that we have to understand the world and all that it contains as a whole as one, the moment we understand that the suffering of a neighbour is our suffering, that by hating other person we hate a part od ourselves, we start pursuing the greater good.
    I think happiness is peace of mind.
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    Jan 11 2012: There are two types of happiness: relative happiness and absolute happiness. Relative happiness is conditional, dependent on environmental factors. For instance, if you get a new job you become happy, but when that job is lost your happiness may go away. However with absolute happiness - or manifesting the highest possible life condition (energy) - the happiness is not conditional on your environment. You are taping the happiness inherent in your life; inherent in everyone's life.
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      Jan 11 2012: Researchers like Ed Deci, Rich Ryan and Tim Kasser call this distinction: intrinsic and extrinsic happiness ... instrinsic is when your own values are the important driver - extrinsic other people's and societies ... intrinsic is much more stable over the long term ...
  • Jan 11 2012: I agree that happiness and peace go together, and one of my favorite quotes is "peace, it does not mean to be in a palace where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. it means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart " ~ unknown
    I feel I have struggled with happiness per se my whole life. I rarely do what I want to do and really try to please others. This could be the problem. One thing I know makes me very happy is finishing something hard, accomplishing it.
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    Jan 11 2012: What makes us happy changes over time and with life experiences. We need to decide what makes us happy without the media or government or some other entity insinuating what should make us happy. Happiness is an individual decision, but it involves everyone and everything around us and how we choose to interact, or not, with same. And we should acknowledge to ourselves that something does make us happy and not be embarrassed or intimidated or pressured into changing our mindset about it.
  • Jan 11 2012: I believe happiness is a result of listening to one's heart. Acting like a compass the heart (soul) guides us toward experiences that are fulfilling (and increase happiness). Feeling unhappy can be the trigger for reflection and assessment in order to find out what are the heart's true desires/destiny.
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      Jan 11 2012: I think that our emotions are like feedback systems and listening to that feedback gives us more information about how to be in the world ... of course sometimes the feedback loops get blocked (we don't listen) ... or get stuck in old patterns
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    Jan 11 2012: Smiling and happy to share in this dialogue; thank you all :)
  • Jan 11 2012: Happiness has a kind of reflective quality, we receive 'the wave', making others happy.
  • Jan 11 2012: I live in Lithuania. there are those who say that people in formerly Soviet occupied countries are negative, unhappy and not very friendly. I moved here from the States. Each day I try to share happiness, positive energy and smiles with people whom I meet. My first hand experience is that it does make a difference! Saying 'hello' to strangers we pass on the sidewalk when we walk our dog eventually prompts them to reply 'hello'. Sharing smiles and happiness goes a long way!
  • Jan 11 2012: Reality is the true key to unhappiness. I find happiness in "moments". Moments of making a true positive impact to another person or myself. A moment shared with a loved one, especially my grandson. Those same moments, when they are negative, onset true unhappiness, also.
  • Jan 11 2012: I strongly believe in a different kind of society, with no more competition but cooperation, for instance, a society where you are not obliged to work all day long - I come back home every day at about 7 p.m. and it's too late! I really want and need to get some time for myself, reading and improving my education.
    Just find out again we are still human beings ,if you know what I mean
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    Jan 11 2012: Such an interesting topic, and there are many books that are written on it as well..
    If I may suggest Happier by Dr. Tal Ben- Shahar who taught Positive Psychology at Harvard.

    Happiness, to me, is tapping in to ones own inner strengths and discovering our core purpose. People tend to walk blindly in this world because they are victims of the rat race. They fall prey to the push to be the best... better than everyone. This race does not bring us happiness. It actually deters people from their individual calling.

    I beleive that the more train ourselves to be a part of a whole, then we will respect other peoples dreams and aspirations. Ultimately, we have to fill our own shoes, and make the change that only we are meant to make in this world.

    So, being part of a whole, when it is used in different environments, such as a community, or a workplace can give people a strong sense of ownership over what they are bringing to the table. This creates an identity, and makes us feel needed in society. Happiness to me is the fulfillment of a sense of belonging, and love.Its finding a void and filling it with goodness and meaning.

    We must train ourselves to be positive in interpreting our world, and we should never forget to smile..

    I know, that making other people happy makes me happy. I hope that I am good at it.
    Thanks for reading,Annie
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    Jan 11 2012: Everyone, listen to these amazing words crying out love, peace, kindness, friendship, brotherhood, humanity and Happiness...All are what we need to be Happy!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=CsgaFKwUA6g
  • Jan 11 2012: Happy individuals makes happy organizations, happy society, happy country, Everything is happy. :)
  • Jan 11 2012: Maybe a lot of people equate Happiness with "excitement" which tends to make it pretty shortlived and dependent on external stimulus? For me, Happiness is a quiet inner, independent, experience, one perhaps of fulfillment, contentment, peacefulness, serenity - a sense of satisfaction with myself and who I am. Happiness with myself is perhaps the most fulfilling, satisfying of all life experiences! This requires for me some form of going within and resonating within with this place of quiet loving acceptance of myself, that's where I find Happiness, serenity within myself. For me, depending on the outside world to "make something happen to make me" happy doesn't"work"! (smile) Smiles are silent happiness!: )
  • Jan 11 2012: Is happiness the opposite of sorrow, the absents of sorrow, or something else all together? I feel content when I just experience the coming and going of sensations, thoughts and emotions as they occur. Is this happiness?
    • Jan 11 2012: That's why I use contentment, peace, and joy as my goals rather than "happiness". I can be joyful in sorrow but not happy in sorrow.
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        Jan 11 2012: I agree Charles (couldn't reply to your reply on my comment). I can be content in the midst of any circumstance, but cannot be happy in many circumstances. Contentment, peace, and joy are choices.
  • Jan 11 2012: Are you doing research nic?
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      Jan 11 2012: I work at a UK think tank - on why Governments should take people's well-being and happiness serously ... so we are a bridge between research and practice ... I have been doing this for 10 years now (I am getting old!) ... but we have had some success as the Uk is the first government in the world to commit to National Accounts of Well-being and is starting to systematicall address some of these issues ...
      More recently I am creating a tool for businesses/organisations to measure the happiness @ work of their employees - which is great fun ... so I am on the practical end of research if you like ... you?
  • Jan 11 2012: I just read an article earlier on this. "How will you measure your life" Very good read by Clayton M. Christensen @ Harvard

    http://hbr.org/2010/07/how-will-you-measure-your-life/ar/5
  • Jan 11 2012: Our society has many different definitions of happiness. For someone living in poverty stricken African countries, the meaning of happiness may be different than a hedge fund manager in Manhattan. I think the only way our society will achieve true happiness is when we eliminate the scarcity that is inherently built into our system to promote profit over well-being.
  • Jan 11 2012: Happiness is also about being grateful for what you have, not worried about what you do not have and want. Lusting for the material life trappings causes unhappiness......being happy for what you have causes happiness. VERY easy to just change your persepective.........
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    Jan 11 2012: Thank you my friend! (Determination.... Oh so true...! And, Oh so worth it...)
  • Jan 11 2012: Hi Nic! I recently attended a screening of Happy, the documentary that you were in. Have you seen the completed film? I really enjoyed the message and the fact that the film helps ignite conversations around happiness, much like this talk. I think that talking about happiness is the first step to becoming happier and learning about the journeys being taken by others to reach a happier life. I know that the film is being released soon and think that others in this conversation may enjoy participating. For anyone who is interested, more information is available at www.WorldHappyDay.com.
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      Jan 11 2012: I saw it last year - and to be honest I had forgotten I was in it! It took poor Roko so long to complete that it was 4/5 years that my interview happened - i looked so much younger on the screen (and no beard and long hair!) Loved the film though ... especially the old Japanese women!
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    Jan 11 2012: Close but not equal, because absolute can still be concerned with your own values. It is not limited to others people's and societies. Absolute happiness (or enlightenment) involves all aspects of life, even the ones that are very personal. Cheers!
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    Jan 11 2012: [Continuing from my first post]

    So if it's possible to be happy in almost any profession, then does it even matter what you for a career? Yes, actually, it does matter, but not in the way exactly in the way of "passions."

    Here's what I mean: My generation has been extremely lucky. Many more of us have been able to attend college than previous generations, and we've been able to open up many more life opportunities because of that. Our parents and our peers were excited to see this happening -- and rightly so. Education is invaluable and our society is only just beginning to see the fruits of so many educated young people. Even with sky-high tuitions, American universities are overflowing with students. But along with this excitement has come a message to college graduates: "Find what your passionate about, and do that for a living." After all, why not? You went to college, you got study whatever you wanted to, so don't work at McDonald's. Instead, work at a "job that you love."

    There's only one problem with this message: It's wrong. Because if people can be happy in many different professions, ranging from janitor to rockstar, then the idea of doing what your "passionate" about for a living makes no sense. Try asking a garbage man if he's passionate about garbage. He probably isn't. But there's no question that there are some -- possibly many -- garbage men out there who are happy with their lives. So what we can make of this?

    I used to think that your career path should be led by your passions. The problem is, your passions change. They change with age, with experience, with the wind... So where does that leave us? What should you do for a living? The answer is simple, and it's always been there: you should do what you're GOOD at. First, find a type of work thatyou're good at -- better than anybody else. Then, and only then, do you begin to bring your passions and interests into it.
  • Jan 11 2012: does anyone agrees that being dependent is a major key in being happy?
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      Jan 11 2012: mmm ... independence is loneliness? I think 'interdependence' is the key ... to love and be loved ...
      • Jan 11 2012: I believe that unclinging is the key.
      • Jan 11 2012: yes i agree with you Nic, but i also belive that success always depends on you. So to be successful in life you need to be independent at some level with your life. You cant let anyone tie with a rope and tells you do this and that, because your life your choice your happiness.
  • Jan 11 2012: As for creating a happier society, it's going to remain a huge challenge while identity and success continue to be defined by consumerism. As a life coach and professional declutterer, I know that retail therapy doesn't work, that acquiring material stuff doesn't make people happier. On the contrary, giving away things you don't need, finding ways to connect with other people, and learning to recognize what you really do value - those are keys to happiness, in my opinion. I think it is possible to promote a more mindful approach to consumerism but it will take massive changes, not least in the realm of political discourse. Any one else out there? I'm eager to hear other opinions.
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      Jan 11 2012: We did this work for the UK government on what are 5 things that make people happier. I mention themin my TED talk
      Connect ...
      Be Active ...
      Take Notice ...
      Keep Learning ...
      Give ...

      None of these are necessarily materialistic ... this is the great hope of societal transformation I think ... we don't 'need' the very things that are creating high levels of debt, huge amounts of waste (and CO2) ... so surely there is a possible pathway to a happier future - but will be take it?? that i do not know but it is there i am sure of ...
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        Jan 11 2012: I LOVE your list, Nic! I also appreciate the work of Marty Seligman, Ed Diener, and others in IPPA who continue to provide valuable research in the field of Positive Psychology. I was fascinated especially with the altruistic degree of giving of oneself or in the service to others; this usually topped the happiness charts! Thank you for the great conversation :)
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          Jan 11 2012: For me GIVING is key ... it is within our power to be generous at any time and i truly believe that what we sow we reap ... sometimes people will be ungrateful - be unpleasant but that is their problem ... if we give without expecting back - it comes back (mainly!) ... that is the lovely paradox ... unattachment ... (quite buddhist!)
      • Jan 11 2012: Yes, very good list. My challenge has been to draw the line between a healthy desire (watch a sunset) and addiction ("need" to buy a yacht to follow the sunset into some paradise where I can be alone). The list draws focus away from self and onto others. I like it.
      • Jan 11 2012: I think taking less is the ultimate form of giving.
    • Jan 11 2012: there was a time in my life where i had to sift through a family members things after their passing. at some point i knew i couldn't keep all of it...most of it was junk..there were countless pictures(which i did keep), and letters..i kept some of the letters, but realized these weren't my memories, so i burned them. Some of the furniture was divided between my siblings and I, and the rest was donated to the local thrift shops. Because of that time in my life, I am very frugal with my things..live minimally, and never buy new. There are so many resale shops now adays and am grateful for the people who give up their things for others who might not be able to afford things at retail price. I stay away from big stores like Walmart, and give my business to locals when possible. Thriftiness means watching how you spend. Do we really need 'everything' new to be happy? Well, No. thanks for reading.
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        Jan 11 2012: I too am living minimally. It's been a long process - almost 10 years now - but am down to the possessions that are truly important to me. Blogging about the whole experience connected me with so many people going through similar situations, and confirmed that wanting "less" is a valid life choice.
  • Jan 11 2012: Everyone would be really really happy when they are in Untopia or heaven.
    Don't get me wrong, I'm not being sarcastic, but just telling you that it is impossible to make all of the people in the world happy at the same time.
    (And Sometimes we don't even realize what is the happiness and what makes us happy.)

    Apparently, it depends on your mind.

    However, we must not ignore the people who live in poor conditions, who are tortured and who are repressed by society.

    For their "humane lives", we should at least do something realistic--make laws and help them in order to give them HOPE to live happily.

    Personally, I can be happier than ever only if i decide to be grateful for everything and enjoy my life.
    But, it's pretty difficult to make all people think the same way that I have.
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      Meli D

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      Jan 11 2012: Why is it impossible?
      • Jan 11 2012: Good question.
        Then, how can you make all of the people in the world happy at the same time?
        I want to hear your idea.
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          Meli D

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          Jan 11 2012: There's a long answer to that, but you haven't answered my question! Why do you think it is impossible?
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      Jan 11 2012: I think that for me it makes absolutely no sense for us to create some societies that happy but that is at the expense of other people's happiness either now or in the future ... for me social injustice is the distributuion of happiness ... sustainability is the happiness of humanity through time ... a truly happy society needs to be soically just and sustainable ...
      • Jan 11 2012: I guess that's a part of your standard of happiness.
        But do you think your ideal society would emerge?
        And even if it would come true, we can't be sure that society would make all of the people happy.
        Of course, it could satisfy the people, but satisfaction is not the only factor that makes people happy.
        Even if the society is just, not all peopple would happy about it, rather, some would complain.

        You know, people's minds are delicate and complicated.
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          Jan 11 2012: I think there will always be a distribution of happiness - so many of the drivers are personal - we all have losses and truimphs ... it would seem extremely dull to not have these ups and downs ... but a happier society would remove systemic obstacles to our happiness ...
  • Jan 11 2012: What about the role of play in happiness? Animals learn things in the pre-adult period through play (and there is not an agree-upon definition for play). Is play defined as an experience in which one is happy, curious, open to trying new things? Can setting up a play culture improve a community?
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    Jan 11 2012: I love this topic -- talking w/ a gfriend of mine a long while back, her mother is a psychiatrist who travels to norwegian countries to discuss the high rates of suicide (she most recently went to Finland). In reading, though, the happiest people/countries are the nordic states... what is it that creates such a high rate of suicide there then? Another friend of mine believes is Seasonal Disorder (SAD) since they're in darkness and cold much longer than other countries. What are your thoughts on this?
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      Jan 11 2012: you know i think this is a bit of an urban myth that suicide is higher in nordic countries ... suicide is a rare event - young males are more violent and therefore more successful at killing themselves than young females - who self harm more ... plus how would you commit suicide? in the Uk we have no access to guns so it is harder to actually do it! Nordic countries have more hunting countries so more success at suicide - plus also doctors/vets/farmers have higher suicide rates - as they have access to methods ... PLUS nordic countries have better public recording systems and in Norway I know they investigate every death for possibel suicide whereas in many countries to be kind to the families left behind they just write down accidental death ... so I am not sure ...
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        Jan 11 2012: I must tell you wrong in your assumption Nic.One doesn't speak about it often but suicide rates are high, for instance here in the North of the Netherlands what we call Friesland. Most by young people that see no perspective in life.
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          Jan 11 2012: I am not saying suicide is not a problem at all ... in the UK about 4,500 commit suicide each year - 5x the murder rate ... and 20x the murder rate by strangers - but i am saying that there are environmental factors in that rate - ie young men "succeed" more than your girls (who try more often) ... of course sucide is a BIG problem ...
  • Jan 11 2012: I think good health is a good basis for happiness along with security and feeling safe in your environment. This on top of the basics of enough to eat and shelter.
    Add to that some sort of meaningful labour which provides fulfillment and purpose in life.
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    Meli D

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    Jan 11 2012: What is a society? A society is a group of individuals. I believe if we-who-have-the-answer work on helping to make each of our fellow individual humans happier, society will naturally fall into line. :)
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    Meli D

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    Jan 11 2012: “I’d always believed that a life of quality, enjoyment, and wisdom were my human birthright and would be automatically bestowed upon me as time passed. I never suspected that I would have to learn how to live - that there were specific disciplines and ways of seeing the world I had to master before I could awaken to a simple, happy, uncomplicated life.” -Dan Millman

    http://www.marcandangel.com/2011/08/30/12-things-happy-people-do-differently/
  • Jan 11 2012: Happiness in my point of view seems to be more likely to be in one hand with your believe in this life and proportional to the way you live your day. I think organizing your day and learning new things instantly is one of the major things that can make anyone happier. I think in every good thing we do and every good deeds we make to the people around us can make you happier. I believe that money make you happier and that is not by entertaining your self no, that is by helping you poor communities around you. By doing so, one can create a sustainable society not shaken by its financial state but with the bad behavior within them. One more thing is i strongly believe is one's understanding in the after life , what does it look like? how can we be prepared for it? etc. I mentioned more than one reason to understand happiness and If anyone like to go through them in details or discuss other factors am so (happy) to talk it.
    Thanks for the nice topic Mr. Marks
  • Jan 11 2012: Is happiness a skill to be learnt through experience and reflection rather than a commodity to be gained and lost?
  • Jan 11 2012: In my perspective,it's possible to have happiness in every area in life- family, relationship, work place, business etc. It's really possible to become happy everyday. Indeed, emotions always change, but we can control it too- connecting to our inner self, by then we will be able to control our own emotion and not the emotion controlling us. It takes time and work.

    Happiness is a decision. If you choose to be happy then be happy, no matter what kind of circumstances you are in- that's the choice. The feeling of pain (emotion) does not really mean you are sad, but if you acknowledge that you are sad because you 'think' you are,then, that's it, that's the label you created. But if you acknowledge happiness despite of feeling pain, therefore, you are happy, because you choose to acknowledge the feeling of happiness than acknowledging the feeling of pain. I'm not saying be numb or what. Please don't get me wrong.

    Happiness is not dependent on anything or to anyone- true happiness. Happiness is YOU, when you choose and decided to be happy, then you are. Happiness is a mindset.

    Society? why not. I'm sure it's very possible. Everything is possible. But it always start from one single seed, individually and then it will contaminate others. I do believe that we are the one creating our own surroundings. Happiness is everywhere. Just stop labeling it with luxury, brand or what. There's ain't a brand name for happiness. It just simply - YOU- mindset- choice-live with it.

    btw, Happiness and Love are far beyond emotions :)
  • Jan 11 2012: I think good physical health is key to both 'moment' happiness and long term, adaptive happiness. It's definitely in my recipe for life well-being and happiness!
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      Jan 11 2012: and the other way round ... happier people live longer - are healthier - they absorb and act on health information better too ... if governments were truly interested in improving longevity of its populations - they should start encouraging more happoiness and focus less on telling us what not to do!
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    Jan 11 2012: Can we really become happier? Happier ourselves?
    - I am a very happy person. :)))
    Can we create happier places to work?
    - Of course, and it is easy!!!
    Or even happier societies?
    - Now, that is an interesting challenge! But, once again it is possible, and I know how to do it. If you have the support a government to start working on it, count with me. ;)
  • Jan 11 2012: In my perspective,it's possible to have happiness in every area in life- family, relationship, work place, business etc. It's really possible to become happy everyday. Indeed, emotions always change, but we can control it too- connecting to our inner self, by then we will be able to control our own emotion and not the emotion controlling us. It takes time and work.

    Happiness is a decision. If you choose to be happy then be happy, no matter what kind of circumstances you are in- that's the choice. The feeling of pain (emotion) does not really mean you are sad, but if you acknowledge that you are sad because you 'think' you are,then, that's it, that's the label you created. But if you acknowledge happiness despite of feeling pain, therefore, you are happy, because you choose to acknowledge the feeling of happiness than acknowledging the feeling of pain. I'm not saying be numb or what. Please don't get me wrong.

    Happiness is not dependent on anything or to anyone- true happiness. Happiness is YOU, when you choose and decided to be happy, then you are. Happiness is a mindset.

    Society? why not. I'm sure it's very possible. Everything is possible. But it always start from one single seed, individually and then it will contaminate others. I do believe that we are the one creating our own surroundings. Happiness is everywhere. Just stop labeling it with luxury, brand or what. There's ain't a brand name for happiness. It just simply - YOU- mindset- choice-live with it.

    btw, Happiness and Love are far beyond emotions :)
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    Jan 11 2012: Absolutely it's possible to become happier, and to create happier environments, workplaces and communities. It happens all the time.

    But how?

    I don't think you get happier by focusing on happiness. I'm dramatically healthier now than I was two for five or ten years ago, but it's not because I focused on my health, and it's not because I've been on diets and exercise programs. Instead, I had a broad desire to be healthy and fit, and found myself making small choices and changes over time. I started paying attention to what I was eating and how active I was, not to try to become healthy, but just to be curious and to play. Over the years, my diet slowly shifted and my level of physical activity increased. By paying attention, getting curious and then playing with what I eat or how much water I drink or with taking walks everything changed.

    The same has happened with my happiness and well-being. I realized in December that the past year had been the best year of my life, by far. But on paper it looked the same. Same income, same house, same relationships, same activities, same level of wellness...but in the background I had started to notice patterns and behaviors that feed into well-being and happiness. I started being more aware of how much love their is in my relationships. I started to notice how involved I am in my community and started playing with being even more involved. I started to play with some of the very simple tools in some books I've read (including "Flourish" by Martin Seligman). I started to play with different ways of winding down at night and getting quality sleep.

    I didn't set out to be happier, I thought I was already happy. But by noticing and getting curious and playing more and more, things keep getting better and better.

    Go find what works for you. I tried little tricks and things that didn't do a thing for me, and some took me backwards. I realized it, and found something else.
  • Jan 11 2012: The idea of self esteem being the result of doing esteem-able things is very old. We lost it in America for a while when we thought that children just needed to develop some innate - or intrinsic, as you put it - notion of self as ok. But, we are now returning to the idea that we don't find happiness in a bubble, at least not from a developmental perspective. I know that I have almost swung the other way after years of meditating and understanding the nature of sunyata. I now have to be careful not to let inertia take me when I am simply content with my non-doing being.
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    Jan 11 2012: The perfect happy society example for me was the one I observed in Bali (an Indonesian island). Everyone was smiling, happy and peaceful. Our of my observations, there were three reasons: 1. Everyone is very religious there (ideology and moral satisfaction); 2. Everyone is busy with something, even if not employed, they paint, or carve, or sew stuff and sell (being busy with something and belonging somewhere); 3. There is no big difference between rich and poor (less ambitions)
  • Jan 11 2012: my dad always tells me we are social animals, without our human interactions we will simply die, i know he is exaggerating but I believe its true and I have witnessed that in my life, when ever am with someone who I enjoy hisher company I feel happy, I think now a days people focus on materialistic life so much thinking that will lead for happiness but as my dad said its all about the human connection, By z way guys this is my first comment everrrrrrr in this Blog
  • Jan 11 2012: Nic, for your research purposes, how do you measure happiness (given that there is intrinsic/extrinsic etc.)
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    Jan 11 2012: Ah ha! And now we are down to the crux of the issue. The rights and obligations of citizens, employees, employers and government in the our happiness. In a crisis, such as now, we are blaming the system and structure for failing us when we become unhappy. And that happiness in the US is HIGHLY subjective. Very, very few of us are homeless (truely) and starving but if we no longer own our home it is a tragedy. However, in the US our rights only pertain to the pursuit of happiness, not the guarantee of same.

    So in my experience as employee, employer and citizen (US) I find the following to be true; That we as individuals are responsible for our own happiness and that happiness is a blend of emotional responses and suportive environmental factors (including health). That the best possible solution for the future near term is a cooperative relationship between our freedom and our structures that ensures the optimal environmental factors within which the emotional component that is under our control can arise. If you work for an unethical company who treats you without respect and are given no creative control over your environment, you are unlikely to be happy and productive. A company MUST recognize that bottom line cost. However, the employee must take responsibility for his or her own happiness and productivity within a healthy corporate structure that supports the overall health of all employees, clients and the corporation itself. Beyond an environment that would ALLOW us to thrive, a company should have no obligation to our current happiness or long term success.

    But to your question, can it be done, I would answer "yes". In fact, I would suggest that it not only can be done but in fact, must be done to recover and move into a new frontier of corporate and governmental systems that will support us in the future. For surely, and without question, the old way is dead.
  • Jan 11 2012: I feel that happiness stems from NOT focusing on self, often we invest much of our time in instant gratification, or centring our attention on how to deride the most of any situation for oneself (money, status, power etc) - the natural human selfish self preservation instinct.....ie....how can I best score from this situation, or how best does it suit me............Now I am not saying one needs to become totally unselfish, I believe in taking downtime for oneself, such as massages, courses for self improvement to further interests, pleasurable holidays and trips with the ones we love......that is good, .....however if more of us could take a little more time to invest in others, family, community, those less fortunate than ourselves or unable to protect themselves, caring for the environment and nature with COMPASSION.....spending time in nature...........the natural battery recharger for free...... THIS is the ultimate secret for pure happiness, helping others .....if more people would realise it, the world would become a better place!
  • Jan 11 2012: Happiness is not some banal, ill-defined goal but a tangible reality. It is possible to improve our ability to be happy.

    I think some form of spiritual sub-structure helps, not necessarily one determined by formal religion. My own one for the moment is inspired by the teachings of the Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, not least his secular adaptation of traditional Buddhist teachings into five mindfulness trainings.

    I have meditated daily on and off for nearly a decade now, a process that helps to calm me down and reduce my mind's seemingly endless chatter. This is a good base from which to start to gain some understanding of self, not least those triggers that tend to destabilise my mind and generate strong emotions such as anger, greed, fear and desire. It is a life-long challenge, with plenty of reverses, but it does seem to help.
  • Jan 11 2012: In my perspective, happiness is a choice. It is a decision that we take, in terms of an attitude we face life with. Albeit a hard one to practice, but its worth experimenting how long we can maintain that while faced with a wide variety of circumstances. Does anybody have anecdotes from how they transformed a difficult situation to a life lesson purely because of how you approached it deciding to be happy?
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    Jan 11 2012: I think it depends on each person and their circumstances... How do you think things like mental illness play into the feeling of "happiness"? I know this is a big factor for me and many people that I know...
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      Meli D

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      Jan 11 2012: Amanda,

      My comment is down below. I was textbook severely clinically depressed. Couldn't hold down a job, failed classes, dropped out of college a few times, poor, suffering and lonely all time, and spent some voluntary time in a mental hospital in May of 2011. The doctors all told me it was biological, it was some error in my brain, I needed lifetime meds to keep me sane -- but none of the medications ever really helped me for very long at all.

      However, after taking a Controlling Stress and Tension class at my local community college this semester and having some very important experiences with some very lovely people, I am now one of the happiest people I know! I am dedicating the next "semester" to writing down and organizing everything I did because I am very convinced that what worked for me is based on my humanity -- something we all share -- and I believe everyone can benefit from it. I'm certainly going to do my best.

      In the meantime, have faith! It can be done. Hold out
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        Jan 11 2012: Can you tell some more of that "class". Looks interesting.
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        Jan 11 2012: Thank you, Meli. I will look at it.
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          Meli D

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          Jan 11 2012: You are most welcome! I hope you find some useful things in there. I will be starting up a vlog and website and anything else I can think of here soon to get these ideas out to everyone for free. Keep in touch! :)
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      Jan 11 2012: Many many people live with mental illness - either themselves or a loved one ... it is hard ... someone with depression is in a very low energy state and finds it hard to move out of that ... if someone in this state can start to walk - or do other forms of physical exercise then their mood can lift but it is very hard to start these recovery processes ... the black dog feeling is pervasive ... but it is also possible that some people can live with there conditions and still experience meaningful lives with pleasures ... i am not an expert on mental illness and depression but it is much more common than people realise (1 in 4 maybe) and talking about it openly is a starting place ...
    • Jan 11 2012: I am not sure if you think those who have mental illness cannot feel happier. This strongly depends on the people around them , The more they are involved with each other the more we we feel happier.
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    Jan 11 2012: I think that happiness it's possible as many other things, perhaps we can achieve happiness because we don't seek it or think it's impossible to enjoy it. I dont's know maybe we misunderstand the definition of happiness: it is not about intensity it is like a state of grace, simple and modest.
  • Jan 11 2012: What are your thoughts on Flow Psychology? I am doing research on applying the theory to schools. I think it's a fascinating area of positive psychology that could really increase our students' motivation in school, their engagement in all the subjects, and help teachers to enjoy their job despite the job conditions in our country today.
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      Jan 11 2012: Yes flow is very interesting - the experience when we get so absorbed that we lose track of time ... sadly i can get it from statistics sometimes! We experience flow when there is the right match between out skills and the challenge we face - it is when we are just stretched the right amount ... it is a great feeling ...
      in the organism from an evolutionary perspective it is probably so we commit to tasks that will serve us in the medium term - even is they are not so imediately pleasure orientated (or comfortable) ...
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    Jan 11 2012: Love that Happiness is the new black

    I start my day w/a powerful intention & choose happiness (not perfect...but practice makes mastery!
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    Jan 11 2012: I don't think you can do much to create a happier organisation mainly because each one of us defines happiness in a very different way. Maybe if it's a small organisation you can keep track of your employees preferences, goals and expectations, but as a society.. I'm not too sure what can be done. We should not forget that people themselves don't know exactly what makes them happy, in most cases.

    On a different pessimistic note, I think (sadly) a lot of people would find money as a source of satisfaction and happiness. Most of them don't think one step ahead regarding what they would do with this money. You could potentially put it to test by making people believe they'd won an amount of money and measure their happiness. I think we'd find that once the primary enthusiasm is gone - we're not in any way happier.

    And...Lastly, I recommend Frankl's book: "Man's search for meaning" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man%27s_Search_for_Meaning) as a source of information regarding one man's path to happiness....

    Shahar.
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      Jan 11 2012: I don't agree that we all define 'happiness' differently ... there is a universality in play here ... we all want to have our lives go well ... we have different pleasures, different passions ... but most of these have common qualities ... relationships, activities, learnings, using our strengths, being curous and mindful and being generous ...

      for organisations - i again disagree - we have all had jobs where the atmosphere at the organisation was horrible (or our boss was) and others where things have been great ... my point is i think we can intentionally create the former - great places to work ... why not? we can become healthier (even though we stiull will eventually die!) ... so why not happier ... there are things within our power
      • Jan 11 2012: i dont think the concept of happiness is universal at all, more so I believe that is the lack of attachmnet to the concepts that define hapiness that actually brings happiness (as confusing as it sounds)
        I a work environment, is not that promotion or achievieng that certain goal or having a great boss or good coworkers that will bring happiness, but not clinging to or desiring this things will.
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        Jan 11 2012: Maybe the basic quality of happiness is common. But the implementation of it comes in a lot of different forms... You can surely isolate factors that would probably cause discomfort in the workplace but eliminating those would not necessarily mean happy employees.
  • Jan 11 2012: This subject fascinates me! I would love to know how to create or mold or influence groups of people to work and interact better together! I've lived at several hostels and the lack of private space and constant inter-meshing of different personalities, cultures and languages makes the question of how to make the group dynamic a happier thing very real! Being open, understanding, patient and inclusive helped there. Also, doing group activities gives everyone a chance to get to know each other.
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      Jan 11 2012: You have joined it Dan! Welcome!

      So what are your answers to Nic's questions: Can we really become happier? Happier ourselves? Can we create happier places to work? Or even happier societies?
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    Meli D

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    Jan 11 2012: I was diagnosed with severe clinical depression at the age of 11. I was the one who realized what was going on and fought my parents' initial denial (with the help of an aunt who also suffers from depression) to get into see doctors and therapists. I suffered nearly every day -- with the rare month or two of feeling okay -- of the next 12 years. There was a brief 6 month period in which I was exercising regularly, was in true love for the first time, and experienced very few symptoms for the first time since I was 11. Unfortunately, that 6 month period ended with my mother's unexpected death of a heart attack at 52 in mid-December 2010 and the then-boyfriend returning to drug abuse habits that turned him into a heavily verbally and mentally abusive person... which he began abusing two weeks before my mother's death.

    I was able to chug along for a little while before coming to a complete halt in the end of May, marked by a complete panic attack/breakdown at work. That was the last time I went to work -- in the following weeks, everything came crashing down. Years ago I had figured out (as a psychology major/nerd) that I actually fit the criteria for Bipolar II and during this period was the first time I had ever had any "scary" manic symptoms that I was aware of. All I could think about was how badly I wanted to die (a familiar thought for me), how much every waking moment was just excruciating. I slept as long and as often as possible, which was made much easier by my near-catatonic state. I would sleep for 20 hours, be awake for four-six excruciating ones, and then back to sleep for another 20.

    I'm running out of room, so I'll cut to the chase: for the last three months, I have been one of the happiest people I have ever met. 95% of my time I am blissfully, completely happy -- not content, not satisfied... HAPPY. I did it through using resources that are already out there to change my thinking and behavior.

    Yes, we can create enduring happiness. I am proof!
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      Jan 11 2012: That's fantastic, congratulations! What are some of the resources you're using?
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        Meli D

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        Jan 11 2012: I am dedicating the next "semester" to breaking everything I did/do into the "active ingredients" for general consumption. In the meantime, I got a lot of the good stuff from a Controlling Stress and Tension class I took at my local community college last semester. The accompanying text, Stress Management for Life (http://www.amazon.com/Stress-Management-Life-Research-Based-Experiential/dp/0534644767), is basically one big How To book on being happy! I bought the international paper back version for about $50, but I'm sure it's not the only book out there. It's the scientific approach to being happy, essentially.

        Also, apparently I independently came up with Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (Albert Ellis is the big name there) -- though he and I differ on certain ideas, the basics are the same.

        Yoga, meditation, being able to ask for help, connecting with others, believing that I truly am the good person I have always worked so hard to be... a ton of things! I hope there's something here you can start with :).
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      Jan 11 2012: Your are mostly Happy, but not content or not satisfied? and even after all these stressful happenings.. This is just GREAT! I think, the main thing is seeing lessons of life and going though all "exams" testing us with failures. But still being tough and resistant is not enough to be absolutely Happy! We are Humans, not robots and we have to explode our emotions in some way.. Are in going for any activity or use meditation methods?
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        Meli D

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        Jan 11 2012: I am all of those things, I simply meant to clarify that when I say I am happy -- that my base existence is pure happiness -- that I am not just talking about the also good but "lesser" feelings of satisfaction and contentment. I am genuinely happy and I don't think any single person who I have met in the last three months (of which there are, thankfully, many!) would disagree. I have mastered happiness and my goal in life is to spread it far and wide -- and I am seeing much success! Meditation is definitely a big part of it :).
    • Jan 11 2012: Yes, there is hope!
  • Jan 11 2012: What defines happiness? Is it a feeling of contentment at a particular moment in time? I am happy when people around me are happy as well. Why is my happiness tied to those around me?
  • Jan 11 2012: The task is to strive not to strive. Only then can an individual be happy. For an entire society to be happy would be an amazing utopia--maybe a few thousand years down the road.
  • Jan 11 2012: I would like to think that happiness would connect closely to peace. Is it happiness that allows us to let other people live lives separate from our own desires? If we are happy in who we are and what we are doing, does this allow the world to be a peaceful place?
    It seems that for myself I have always strived to find happiness. Happiness in my job, in my location, in my relationships. And yet I never really looked at how my happiness can affect others.
  • Jan 11 2012: Things always turn out as you have anticipated them to turn out! So would you like to become more happy than you will become more happy.... it is as simple as that! Turn down your expectations and live life to the fullest...have the courage to live life true to yourself, not the life that others expects of you, Don´t work too hard, Express your feelings, stay in touch with you loved ones, friends etc..and most importantly..let yourself be happy cause you deserve it..
  • Jan 11 2012: Hi, Mr. Marks

    I believe that happiness is not always a goal in times of crisis. But I wish to know your opinion about how can we had happiness in times of economic crisis? How can I manage this happiness where everything appear to be falling apart? Can we be happy with small stuff and things? Sometimes I wonder what is make us really happy if are the goals we proposed or are relationships?
    Thanks!
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  • Jan 11 2012: I don't think we'll ever get to become a "happy society" per se. As societies become more complex, the way to happiness and well-being will change and many times one persons quest for happiness will inhibit others. The Athenians were very happy beings, but at the expense of their slaves, for example. More than that, a lot of people are looking for quick solutions to happiness, and unfortunately there never will be one. Happiness for one person is going to have a completely different meaning for someone else. It's just a matter of finding something that makes you happy (and is socially acceptable) and immersing yourself in it.
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      Jan 11 2012: Not sure i agree with your fatalisim on this ... we'll never become perfect utopian societies ... but surely we can create better opportunities for people to find their own ways to becoming happier ...
      • Jan 11 2012: I agree completely we can create better opportunities for people to achieve well-being, but I don't think a society or company or even a person can be completely happy. There needs to be some balance in their life, some stress so that they continue to strengthen their sense of self and become more complex individuals.
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          Meli D

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          Jan 11 2012: I am completely happy. There are moments in life that are more difficult, but within me, my own little universe, I am happy! I have been this way for months now, because of conscious intent. I know I am just some stranger on the internet, but please have faith -- it can be done!
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          Jan 11 2012: Stress ... fear ... anger ... these are all information ... our environments are never going to be perfectly calm ... so we need to functionally adaptive ... resilient but open to new experiences ... as a rule of thumb - negative emotions are responses to threats in the environment ... positive ones are about finding opportunities ... logically therefore positive emotions in organisations/societies should lead to more opportunities - this is Barabara Fredrickson's broad-build theory of positive emotions ... my favourite theory from positive psychology ...
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      Jan 11 2012: There are a lot of assumptions in what you say here, Dana. For starters, to say that societies are becoming more complex, I see that as a fallacy. That is, to me, it's part of the definition of society. Humans are constantly evolving and I feel the complexities you are referring to represent reflections of our current culture. At each stage of our development, looking back would always find things less complex, but it's relative to the current situation.
      Athenians might have been happy, but my guess is, it wasn't all Athenians.
      Your last point, really gets at the mark when you say it is up to the individual. It's hard to think of a WE that can be happy, if the MEs of that WE aren't.