Increasing Happiness and Wellbeing

by Shari Bennett-Speer, Assistant Manager OLTD- Department of Human Resources

March is Happiness Month, and March 20th is the International Day of Happiness. Why would a whole month be dedicated to happiness when sometimes it feels like there’s nothing we can do about our levels of happiness? It turns out that we can all take steps to increase our happiness, and doing so profoundly impacts our lives.

When asked what they want most out of life, people put happiness at the top of their lists, and eight out of ten Americans report thinking about their happiness at least once a week. So: are we happy? Fifty-four percent of American adults are moderately well when it comes to their emotional wellbeing, yet not flourishing. Many of us lack enthusiasm for life and are not actively and productively engaged with the world.

So what is happiness and how do we create more of it in our lives?

Happiness is a deep sense of flourishing that goes beyond fleeting pleasurable moments. It refers to “our personal experience of joy, contentment, engagement, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that our life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile,” according to Sonja Lyubomirsky, psychology professor and author of The How of Happiness.

And happiness isn’t just about personal gratification. It leads to success in nearly every domain of our lives, including marriage, health, friendship, community involvement, creativity, our jobs, and our organizations. If we observe genuinely happy people, we find that they do not just sit around being contented. Instead, they make things happen; they pursue new undertakings and seek new achievements; and they have influence over their thoughts and feelings rather than being controlled by them.

The good news is that advances in the field of happiness studies are now solid and rigorous enough to translate into specific recommendations for people. Enjoying a real increase in our happiness levels is attainable!

The science of happiness suggests that what we DO and how we THINK affects our happiness despite the effects of our genetic makeup and the circumstances in which we find ourselves. If an unhappy person wants to experience enthusiasm, contentment, peace, and joy, that person can make it happen by engaging in specific techniques that have a powerful influence on happiness.

Just some of these techniques include:

  • Counting blessings and expressing gratitude
  • Avoiding overthinking and social comparison
  • Practicing acts of kindness
  • Developing strong, nurturing relationships
  • Committing to significant, meaningful goals
  • Learning to forgive and letting go of anger and resentment
  • Taking care of our bodies by engaging in physical activity and meditation

For more about these techniques and others, check out this link to the International Day of Happiness where you can receive resources and tips for increasing your happiness (you need to sign up with your name, email, and location – it takes less than a minute).

Power Henrico is all about taking charge of our health and well-being, and happiness is a key part of doing just that. If this is a topic you’re interested in exploring more deeply, be sure to check out the new Training Catalog on July 1 and sign up for the class, “Happiness: Proactive Steps to Improving Your Well-being,” as well as several others that support our resilience and well-being.