Searching in therapy for the positive

Happiness. Did you know there is score for your Countries level of happiness? Finland is the routinely the happiest country. Ireland was 14th on the world’s list; USA 18th and the Uk 19th in 2018. It might be surprising to consider that the levels replicate year on year. It leads to more questions than answers really. What makes a country happy? What influences those levels?
Dfarhud et al (2014), reviewed various studies and concluded that results of studies on genetic factors for happiness indicated an average effectiveness of genetics at about 35 -50 percent on happiness. So at least part of the capacity to be happy is influenced by our genes.
Research in the field of positive psychology and happiness often define a happy person as someone who experiences frequent positive emotions, such as joy, interest, and pride, and infrequent (though not absent) negative emotions, such as sadness, anxiety and anger (Lyubomirsky et al., 2005) The conclusions of this study demonstrated that what precedes numerous successful outcomes, influences the human behaviours which correlate with success, and describes the positive effects of happiness as the hallmark of well-being.
I have followed Michel Odent with interest as my midwifery journey has transitioned. He turns the argument regarding the capacity of stress hormones in pregnancy to affect a developing fetus on it’s head by questioning the lack of interest in research on the influences of positive hormones in pregnancy. In his article ‘The Function of Joy in Pregnancy (Odent 2006). While recognising the enormous growth in positive psychology research it is important too to be practical.

happiness is life experience marked by a preponderance of positive emotion. Feelings of happiness and thoughts of satisfaction with life are two prime components of subjective well-being. TWEET
The counselling assessments which we use to provide measurements predict a preponderance to symptoms of anxiety of depression or risk. We look for the worst that a person has been feeling. Measurements for happiness are not in any way a routine construct of establishing wellness levels. The Epigenetic Institute recognises that numbers of studies indicate that the question of happiness is multidimensional, and demonstrate that much has to do with expectations and beliefs alongside relationships and values.
Mayers, (2007) in his concluding comments on DNA and happiness genes remarks that managing the mind is very effective and can rapidly improve well-being.
While Dr Mayers is primarily referring here to the practice of meditation the principal is the same. We all have a baseline for contentment or joy or happiness. A level almost that remains fairly stable throughout the day. The quantity of happiness being influenced by life’s seasons and events. Seasons may come and go but those levels, day by day may stay the same.
It is hard if the life a person leads or is influenced by factors based in biology or circumstances has not provided a baseline sense of every day contentment. If you are depressed or severely anxious and afraid it may seem unfair to believe a greater degree of happiness is possible in the routine of life for many around you. Clients who have baby’s in the midst of life turmoil may even describe this sense of happiness, co-habiting with the emotional turmoil of their birth experiences as jarring and uncomfortable. It can seem crass to recommend that pregnant women or new parents ought to seek out the way of joy, when life circumstances draw the heart inwards or down.
So much can be done. Often simple acts of kindness from you to you can change expectation. Expectation igniting hope and some (potentially fulfilling) hard work can begin to change that chemistry. This is what the research says. It provides encouragement to those who feel able, to start to seek the more content road whatever the circumstances. Realistic truth, honest connections and some hard work might germinate the seeds of hope for a richer happier life in the future.

Resources below. This is a very practical look at growing happiness
Suggestions for a happier life:

DNA and Happiness Genes

holarpedia is supported by Brain Corporation
Psychology of happiness
David Myers (2007), Scholarpedia, 2(8):3149. doi:10.4249/scholarpedia.3149
revision #37099 [link to/cite this article]

Post-publication activity

Curator: David Myers
• David Myers, Hope College, Holland, MI

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