The Art of Happiness

Ah, happiness, that elusive state. Philosophers, theologians, psychologists, even economists, have long sought to define it, and since the 1990s, a whole branch of psychology—positive psychology—has been dedicated to pinning it down and propagating it. More than simply positive mood, happiness is a state of well-being that encompasses living a good life—that is, with a sense of meaning and deep satisfaction.

Research shows that happiness is not the result of bouncing from one joy to the next; achieving happiness typically involves times of considerable discomfort.  Money is important to happiness, but only to a certain point. Money buys freedom from worry about the basics in life—housing, food, clothing. Genetic makeup, life circumstances, achievements, marital status, social relationships, even your neighbors—all influence how happy you are. Or can be.

So do individual ways of thinking and expressing feeling. Researchers estimate that much of happiness is under personal control. Regularly indulging in small pleasures (such as warm baths!), getting absorbed in challenging activities, setting and meeting goals, maintaining close social ties, and finding purpose beyond oneself are all actions that increase life satisfaction.

Recent posts on Happiness

Facing Your Depression

By David Ludden Ph.D. on August 20, 2017 in Talking Apes
Researchers are working on a new treatment for depression you can put on your mobile device—but a self-help version is already available.

Meditation, Mindfulness, and Endurance Sports

By David Dillard-Wright Ph.D. on August 19, 2017 in Boundless
David talks with Meredith Atwood about meditation and endurance sports.
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Do You Build or Discover Your Life?

By Robert Taibbi L.C.S.W. on August 19, 2017 in Fixing Families
You can approach to your life as a builder, blueprint in hand, or a discoverer, where you see where a path leads you. Qualities of each, and a possible middle ground

What Your Earliest Food Memories Say About You

Memories of food associated with growing up influence you in ways you never realized. New research shows the role that food memory plays in adapting to adult life.

25 Simple Self-Care Tools for Weary Parents

By Erin Leyba LCSW, Ph.D. on August 18, 2017 in Joyful Parenting
Many parents are exhausted and overworked. These ideas offer ways to engage in self-care, renew your energy, tune into feelings, and strengthen relationships in 10 minutes or less.

A New Toxic Trend in Relationships: Is Yours at Risk?

Do you look to your partner to support for your own self-expression? A cultural trend is having unforeseen consequences for couples.

Three Ways Money Buys Happiness

By Mark Holder, Ph.D. on August 17, 2017 in The Happiness Doctor
Money really can buy happiness, if you spend it right. Research has identified three ways that spending your income can lead to greater happiness.

Mental Health Principles from the Wisdom of Psychotherapy

In thinking about a value system based on psychotherapeutic principles, I began to consider some guidelines that might be of value for achieving a freer, more satisfying existence.

The Unselfish Art of Prioritizing Yourself

By Lisa Firestone Ph.D. on August 17, 2017 in Compassion Matters
Maintaining a certain regard for ourselves, doing things we want to do, and engaging in self-care are fundamental to creating a good life for ourselves and the people we love.

Getting Married: Are Your Money Mindsets Compatible?

By Michael F. Kay on August 17, 2017 in Financial Life Focus
When it comes to combining two separate—and perhaps different—money lives into one family, there are important questions to explore.

How Awful is Work, Really?

By Nigel Barber Ph.D. on August 17, 2017 in The Human Beast
People talk about work as though it were before the Industrial Revolution. In reality work today is much better but our perceptions have not kept track.

Is Accepting Unpleasant Emotions the Secret to Happiness?

By Christopher Bergland on August 17, 2017 in The Athlete's Way
Are you feeling outraged or sad right now? New research reports that accepting negative emotions as part of the ups and downs of life will make you happier in the long run.

Three Science-Based Reasons Vacations Boost Productivity

By Emma M. Seppälä Ph.D. on August 17, 2017 in Feeling It
Americans generally believe that they should push themselves before they actually take a break. They don't realize that vacations will make them more—not less—productive.

Is Your Teen Addicted to Dieting? Try a Social Media Fast

By Joy Jacobs J.D., Ph.D. on August 16, 2017 in One More Bite
Why a social media fast might be an essential tool for eating disorder recovery.

Separation Theory

Early interpersonal pain, separation anxiety, and death anxiety lead to the formation of powerful psychological defenses that limit a person’s capacity for living and feeling.

How to Not Lose Track of What’s Really Important

By Lisa Firestone Ph.D. on August 15, 2017 in Compassion Matters
Between our fantasy of how things should go and an inner critic telling us how awful we are if they don’t, we're often too caught up in our heads to be fully present in our lives.

Michelle Gielan On Mindset

By Isaac Lidsky on August 14, 2017 in Mastering Your Reality
A positive psychology expert teaches us to “mine the data of our existence” and construct a reality that fuels and empowers us.

Does It Feel Safe With Other People?

By Rick Hanson Ph.D. on August 14, 2017 in Your Wise Brain
Even if the other person reacts to you, you could handle it fine. If there is something to deal with — conflict, betrayal — you can be clear-eyed and strong, without being anxious.

The #1 Brain-Scrambling Apology

Let's de-code the most brain-scrambling apology of them all.

Do You Ask for What You Want?

By Atalanta Beaumont on August 11, 2017 in Handy Hints for Humans
Ask for what you want, and surprise yourself by how often you get it.

Follow The Bread Crumbs to Your Purpose

By Megan Dalla-Camina on August 10, 2017 in Real Women
Are you struggling to work out what your purpose is, or even how to start discovering what it is? This will help, and it's not what you think.

Why Are Periods of Solitude So Important?

Just as music depends on the space between the notes and painting also is also about the use of space, so is human life itself.

You Won’t Believe Who Can Help You Relieve Stress

Is even vacation time grueling? A new way of thinking can reduce stress.

Keep on a Happy Face

Is feeling sad or depressed so socially unacceptable that we must pretend to be happy?

Seven Studies Show That Virtue Truly Is Its Own Reward

By Meg Selig on August 09, 2017 in Changepower
Is virtue really its own reward? These seven studies suggest that good actions actually do bring a surprising wealth of benefits to those who help others.

Two Types of Relationship Aggression Identified

Is impossible for couples to avoid arguments but new research on long-term relationships suggests that some forms are more damaging than others. Here’s how to avoid the bad kind.

How Americans Really Feel about Solo Travel

By Andrea Bartz on August 08, 2017 in The Wandering Mind
Who vacations alone—and why? The answers may surprise you.

Sometimes to Love Yourself, You Need a New Name

By Jennifer Haupt on August 08, 2017 in One True Thing
I’m changing only three letters, Carolyn to Caroline, which seems like a simple uneventful, thing to do, but to me, it feels like a lifting of a curse.

Out of Balance?

By Rick Hanson Ph.D. on August 08, 2017 in Your Wise Brain
Think of sobriety in terms of the big picture, and in the context of a life well-lived. Sobriety is a gain—of health, self-respect, unclouded mind, peace with others and bliss.

The Problem with Assuming Others Are Perfect

By Barbara Greenberg Ph.D. on August 07, 2017 in The Teen Doctor
Assuming others live perfect lives is problematic.