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Don’t Worry, Be Happy – The Search for Happiness

Photo courtesy of Paul.

“Happy, happy, happy”, was a phrase our oldest son would often use when he was very young. It has stuck with our family through the years. You can still hear the phrase pop up from someone in the family. Children seem to be full of happiness and cheer. Who does not smile while watching young children at play?

So, what makes you happy? How do you know you are happy? Are there certain things that happen to tell us we are happy? Many of us think ‘if I just get to retire from my job I will be happy’ or ‘if I win the lottery then surely I would be happy.’ ‘Maybe this very expensive corvette will do the trick to give me happiness.’ These are just a few situational happenings to show how we search for happiness.

“He/she is having a midlife crisis,” is often said of people who make large life choices or make large purchases in an effort to increase the excitement and happiness of their lives. How many of us get something we have longed for only to find it did not give us lasting happiness? For many of us events or new things can provide moments of happiness and soon we find these moments do not last and our thought process shifts to the less than positive. We have to look for the next big thing to give us that lift again. I have often heard “it’s the journey not the destination that brings interest and happiness.” Studies show being happy is a conscious decision to look at life positively and enjoy the moment.

Therefore, you may ask, ”is there a secret formula for finding happiness?” As I looked for information on this topic, I came across a number of ideas on how to make your life happier.

Here are a few of my favorite ideas for increasing our happiness:

  • There are people who are naturally joyful and jovial. These folks keep everyone around them smiling. It is good to surround yourself with some friends like this.
  • Enjoy the simple pleasures such as watching a beautiful sunset or admiring a rainbow. Maybe a simple cup of coffee with a friend is reason to be happy.
  • Do the things you love and have purpose for you. Doing something that makes a difference in someone else’s life can bring pure joy to yours.
  • Practice gratitude and you will be surprised how good you feel. My mother was insistent my sister and I wrote thank you notes whenever we got a gift from anyone. To this day, I enjoy writing a thank you note to people who have touched my life in some special way. The act of showing gratitude not only lifts the sender’s spirits but also lifts the receiver’s spirit. I have kept many thank you cards that came my way relishing in the thoughtfulness.

Happiness can be difficult to maintain. It is easy to get into negative thinking. Scientists say there is a neurological reason for the strong emotions such as happiness and sadness. When the part of the brain that plays a key role in emotions becomes stimulated it remains that way for a long time and can cause the brain to imprint a memory. The more emotional the situation, the stronger the memory will be.

This emotional memory is the reason the Music and Memory program at Sierra View Homes Retirement Community works so well. Music creates a strong emotion and these emotions have memories tied to them. We get the specific music that a resident had an emotional tie to when they were much younger. Some studies say the strongest musical memory time are around 8 years old through the teenage years. We work hard to put together their most favorite songs and artists. Watching residents, who are affected with dementia, light up as they listen to music of their youth is a wonderful way to bring out their happiness memories.

It does not take a lot of money, fame or social position to be a happy person. Indeed, a person with minimal material goods or some of the toughest struggles in life seems to be happier because they appreciate and are thankful for even the smallest blessings. It takes dedication to be aware of the little pleasures in life. It takes being grateful and to have a sense of purpose. Spend time with a friend, write a thank you note, give someone a word of encouragement and see how it makes you feel. You might find you are happy.

About the author

Ro Linscheid

Ro Linscheid is the Associate Executive Director and Admissions and Marketing Director for Sierra View Homes Retirement Community. You can contact her at (559) 638-9226 or rlinscheid@sierraview.org.