The Non-Specific Science of Improved Happiness
Men and women have made this statement since the development of their respective languages: "I just want to be happy." Indeed, many entertainers and life coaches have made a healthy living on our constitutionally protected right to the pursuit of happiness. But happiness is no more than an idea, a way of thinking. It is vague, poorly understood and differs for every individual. There can be no systematic method for finding what has been sought after but rarely found by humans for tens of thousands of years. Or can there? In October 2012's Readers Digest "Art of Living" section, the periodical offered a single page article entitled "Find Happiness” sharing "five steps to take toward a sunny disposition." Though not as wordy as countless writings on the subject written through the last millennium, it did offer something poetry and prose has never offered; 5 techniques researched by respected institutions using a purely scientific method. Keeping hydrated (based on a 2012 study in the University of Connecticut) and Valuing Relationships (resulting from a 30 year study at the University of Illinois) were only two of the tips offered to assist those of us looking to improve our outlook on life.
The scientific approach to happiness is not a new idea. In 1998, Dr. Martin Seligman pioneered the field of "Positive Psychology," a methodical approach to living a happier, more productive life. The field of study has since erupted, spurning several college level classes in many accredited universities and online colleges.
Harvard has offered a course in Positive Psychology for several years boasting 450 students per semester. The University of Pennsylvania now offers a full Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program using Mr. Seligman's Teachings. The program's target audience is working professionals, and the majority of graduates (about 60 percent) return to their original fields with fresh insights and added value. "It's not a profession-specific degree" explains Deborah Swick, Associate Director of Education at University of PA. "Once you learn about the science with cumulative research behind it, you are worth more to your organization.
The program focuses on such issues as the empirical study of postitive emotions, strengh-base character, healthy institutions and leads students to apply these aspects of positive psychology in their professional or organizational setting. Gretchen Rubin, Author of NY Times bestseller "The Happiness Project" Took a similar approach by building her own series of exercises and principles to find her own happiness. Millions of readers have found her journey through 1 year of positive thinking in her life to be more a self-help-book than a memoir. Ms. Rubin discovered her own rules through trial and error and her success has since spawned a "happiness movement" with thousands of her readers using her findings to reach their own nirvana.
On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she continues to report on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. The website offers readers an opportunity to find their own "Happiness Project" through charting their "Happiness Goals," Discussion guides and even an opportunity to join "happiness project groups." These groups swap ideas, build enthusiasm, give encouragement, and – perhaps most important – hold members accountable in a style reminiscent of AA or Weight Watchers.
Though there may not be a vaccination on the horizon that will eradicate the world of 'the monday blues,' these breakthroughs offer hope to those who are willing to do do some work to improve their own quality of life. If you “just want to be happy,” maybe it’s time to “just make it happen!” Guest Post by Fabio S. Iannella.
Fabio studied Theatrical Direction and English at the University of Rhode Island. He is a freelance editor, copywriter and creative writer and the member of several writing groups. He lived most of his adult life in Brooklyn, NY where he began his own journey in the pursuit of happiness and self awareness. He is an avid fan of the arts, literature, sports, philosophy, games of logic and anthropology and his spare time is often spent wrtitng poetry, essays and short stories.
Always looking for a new challenge, Fabio is looking to make writing his primary career. He can be contacted for questions, comments and assignments at firstname.lastname@example.org. All photos pulled directly from the pages of Readers Digest