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Living in Pursuit of Happiness

What is happiness? How can I be happier in my life? These are some of the questions I often hear from my clients.

Happiness is defined as a transient emotional state of pleasure and contentment that often times comes from satisfying experiences. In the past decades, happiness has received a great deal of attention; in part, I believe because of the impact and rise of depression in our society (depression)

Past studies in positive and social psychology has described happiness as related to our state of mind and positive attitude; however recent studies have found that happiness has a genetic and biological factor. They have identified the gene that confirms that happiness is part of our DNA. Nevertheless, these researchers have also cautioned about the oversimplification of such complex emotion and emphasized the importance of our experiences when understanding happiness. (genetics)

So, why is it important to understand happiness? Historically, studies have described the contribution happiness has in our personal and professional life. They have found a positive correlation between happiness and well-being. In other words, happier people are healthier individuals who live longer, enjoy a greater quality of life and experience and overall sense of well-being. While it may be easier to imagine the connection between happiness and personal fulfillment, research has also suggested the importance of happiness in the workplace. For example, it has been well documented that employees’ positive feelings toward work environment is associated with customer loyalty, higher productivity and profitability, decrease in employee turnover rate and overall job satisfaction. (workplace) With all the positive outcomes connected with happiness, it is not a surprise that many of us strive to experience it.

When we think of happiness, it is important to realize that emotions, like thoughts, drive us to behave in our environment. It can guide our response towards others as well as ourselves. When we are feeling happy, we tend to treat others and ourselves with care, while when we are angry, we can react in ways that will hurt ourselves and others. It is this energy of emotions that can help us open up to the world around us and move forward or close us up and stifle our growth. Despite the emotional charge, all emotions serve us in some way. Feelings of sadness after the death of a family member is an important part of the grieving process that eventually allows us to reconcile and move forward. So, to make happiness the end result may eventually hinder us and deny us from growth. Therefore, do not focus on happiness but rather focus on the following key elements that promote well-being and positive emotions.

1. Engage in mindfulness- Evaluate your emotional state and how your current emotions are interfering with your daily life. Self awareness is the first step towards change.

2. Balance your emotional state- Understand you are not only one emotion, but that as emotional beings you can experience many different emotions in one day; seek to find balance.

3. Give yourself the time to disconnect- Stop and breathe! Whether you use prayer, meditation or a walk in the park, it is important that you allow yourself to recharge from the world around you.

4. Forgive yourself and others- Often times, we hold on to the past which can result in guilt or anger and hold us back from experiencing positive emotions, such as happiness.

5. Do not lose hope- When you visualize the future; look through a lens of optimism. When you emit positive energy you are more likely to attract positive energy.

6. Experience the moment- Every moment in your life is unique; make sure to embrace and enjoy the moments that bring happiness.

Dr. Maria Dowling holds a Doctorate degree in Psychology, Masters in Pharmacology and an MBA. She is a transformational certified Core Energy Coach and ICF certified. For more information visit

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