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Psychological Foundations of Happiness - Part I

Cognition of the World

Happiness depends on a considerable extent on how we think about the world, as well as our emotional responses. Someone who can think straight and solve real life problems is better equipped to be happy. Wisdom means being able to understand and deal with the challenges, both great and small, that we encounter in everyday life. Wise people can identify the problem and then work out how to resolve it in a practical way. Wise people also recognize the inherent uncertainties of life, appreciate the limits of their own knowledge, and cope well with ambiguity (Martin, 2006, PP. 66- 67).

There is no objective way to tell you if you have had a good life, a good day, or a good hour. Your life is a success based only upon your judgment.

A study was done recently in which people on opposite sides of an issue where given the same newspaper article to read. Those people were asked to read the article carefully and to offer their reaction. On average, people said they thought the article was biased against their own position. That is, people on both sides of the issue thought the exact same article was biased against their side. The article could not possibly have been biased against both sides of the issue. Obviously, it was not the content of the article that drove the reaction, but the perspective of the readers. Life events have the same effect. The same event can be seen positively, or it can be seen negatively. It depends upon your perspective. (Niven, 2000)

Knowing whether some ones have recently suffered a personal setback or personal triumph is not as good a predictor of how satisfied they are with their lives as knowing how they perceive the causes and consequences of those events. (Staats, Armstrong-Stassen, and Partillo1995; cited in Niven, 2000)

What is the shape of the World? What condition is it in? Scientists, philosophers, and kings could offer a never-ending debate on the question, but there is no real grade for the world apart from the one you assign it. (Niven, 2000)

People who have experienced similar life events can wind up with nearly opposite perceptions of life satisfaction. Researchers have compared, for example, people who have received a job promotion, and they found that while some of the people treasure the opportunity others lament the added responsibility. The implication of life events are a matter of perspective. (Chen 1996; cited in Niven, 2000)

Faith and belief in God, and worshipping Him

Argyle (2004) says Pollner found nearness to God and, having a friendly image from God, had relationship with happiness. Another factor may be firm faith. Elison (1991) showed that after continuance of social support and private worship, firm faith cause happiness. Ellison, et al. (1989) found that intensity of worship (frequent prays and feeling of nearness to God) are the strongest predictors of Satisfaction with life. They also showed that religious beliefs are the most important source of happiness. Pray and prayer can increase happiness and health. Paloma and Pendleton (1991) found that when religious experiences occur in praying, feeling health and happiness maximizes. Religious behaviors cause positive excitements. Religious ceremonies create popular feeling, and cause feeling of unity with presence of others.

Religion's benefits broadly divide into four factors: social support, spiritual support, a sense of purpose and meaning, and the avoidance of risky and stressful behaviors. Doing good works through acts of charity provides another sense of connection to community. Religion can often help us feel more included in society, and it can give us a sense of being united and a feeling of continuity in life. The word 'religion' derives from the Latin religious meaning 'to bind together' and this is what organized religion tends to do to its followers. And being connected to others is an important ingredient for happiness. So it comes as no surprise to learn that religious people are generally happier than those who are not. Slough Volunteer says: am a Muslim and Muslims are very community- oriented. Family is everything, so we already understand much of the ethos of happiness that is in the manifesto" (Hoggard, 2005, PP. 190192). Religion can also make us more compassionate, and the result of our compassion can make us feel better too.

A research, mostly conducted in the USA, has found that religious people tend to be somewhat happier than nonreligious people, other things being equal. Religion does provide a firm structure for encouraging people to behave and think in ways that make them feel happier (Martin. 2006, PP. 114-117).

Religion can show us the way in a world in which bad things happen. It can teach us that much of what we see is so complex that we cannot understand why and how it occurred.

Everywhere in our world, there is mystery. Everywhere there are questions. Religion offers answers. Religion offers consistency. Religion offers hope. (Niven, 2000)

A research on the effect of religion on life satisfaction found that, regardless of what religion people affiliated themselves with, those who had strongly held spiritual beliefs were typically satisfied with life, while those who had no spiritual beliefs typically were unsatisfied. (Gerwood, LaBlanc, and piazza 1998; cited in Niven, 2000)

Resilience and hardiness

The capacity to maintain or restore well- being in the face of adversity is referred to by psychologists as resilience, or hardiness. The evidence confirms that resilient individuals are usually happier than those who are more easily cast down by life's inevitable upsets; individuals to have supportive personal relationships, persistence, motivation, an ability to plan a head, and practical knowledge (Martin, 2006, P.57).

That there are many problems in the world is obvious to anyone, but take comfort in the notion the eventually good prevails. Whether your focus is on the criminal justice system or a spiritual system, realize that those who have wronged the world will eventually pay some price (Niven, 2000).

Regardless of the experiences subjects personally dealt with, whether they had personally been the victim of a crime or known someone close who had, those who believed the world ultimately report just a 1 13 percent higher level of life satisfaction (Lipkus, Dalbert, & Siegler, 1996; cited in Niven, 2000).

Think of the happy times you, your family, and friends have had together. Recalling happiness of the past has the powerful ability to bring us happiness in the present. (Niven, 2000)

When people consciously choose to think back on their past, over 80 percent tend to focus on very positive memories. (Hogstel and Curry 1995; cited in Niven, 2000)

having long- term goals

According to researches, individuals whose daily efforts relate directly to achieving their longer- term goals tend to be happier than those whose strivings are unrelated to their goals (Martin, 2006, P. 56). A life that is meaningful and has some purpose to it is more likely to be a happy life. Someone who knows where he wants to go, and why, will probably be happier. Studies have confirmed that people who regard their life as meaningful tend to be happier and more satisfied other things being equal (Martin, 2006, PP. 56). We are better equipped to be happy if we can enjoy the present, prepare for the future and avoid dwelling on the Past. Happy people are usually able to think ahead, but they do not spend their lives waiting for some imaginary future or endlessly mulling over bad things that happened in the past. They are also capable, at the right time, of losing themselves in the here and now and relishing the present moment (Martin, 2006, P.62).

Studies of older Americans find that one of the best predictors of happiness is whether a person considers his or her life to have a purpose. Without a clearly defined purpose, seven out of ten individuals feel unsettled about their lives; with a purpose, almost seven out of ten feel satisfied. (Lepper1996; cited in Niven, 2000)

Without a purpose, nothing matters. You can wok forty hours a week, come home to cook, clean, and then take up seventy-two new good habits, but if there is not a reason you are doing it, none of these activities will mean anything to you. (Niven, 2000)

In a research on college students, a comparison was made between students who enjoyed lives and studies and students who were least comfortable with their environments. A major difference between the two groups was a sense of underlying purpose in life, which almost twice as many of the former group had. (Rahman and Khaleque 1996; cited in Niven, 2000)

Adapted from the book: "Foundations of Happiness"

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