“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called. — A.A. Milne
We all know about that kind of anticipation – when we’re about to indulge ourselves in one of our favorite treats – dark chocolate with macadamia nuts, our favorite sauvignon blanc, a great novel, a shopping spree, a ylang ylang bubble bath, a romantic dinner with our sweetie, a walk by the ocean, a two-week vacation to the Caribbean – whatever makes you happy and excited. We all have our special treats and extravagances that bring happiness and excitement.
But it seems there are different definitions of happiness. Life-enhancing pleasures, like Pooh diving into the honey pot, are often referred to as “momentary happiness” or “transitory happiness” or “pleasure” – wonderful but fleeting. Then there’s what, in many studies, is referred to as “enduring happiness” or “contentment”, where an individual maintains an enduring level of happiness through the normal ups and downs of life. We say someone is “a happy person” or that someone “always has a positive attitude”, and it isn’t because their life is better or easier than anyone else’s. Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, says: “Pleasure is always derived from something outside you, whereas joy arises from within.”
Many studies have shown that wealth, income, job status, etc. do not make people happy and we’ve all seen examples of that. Studies of people winning the big lotteries show that five years later their happiness level is the same as it was before they won. If they weren’t happy people before they had their big win, they aren’t any happier five years after. What seems to distinguish happy people is that they have a unique attitude – a different way of thinking about things and doing things. They interpret the world and go about their lives in a different way.
It seems to be generally agreed that individuals start out with a set range of happiness, possibly genetic, that counts for about40 to 50% of our tendency towards happiness, whereas our circumstances count for about 10%. That leaves 40 to 50% of our happiness that is voluntary. This includes all aspects of our life over which we have a relatively high degree of control, including our thoughts and actions and attitude. How we choose to think and act has a significant impact on how happy we are, which means we can take steps to being a happier person – a choice that stands to make a big difference in our life and the lives of those around us. Happiness is a choice. Make the choice to be happy and reaffirm that choice daily.
“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily. “So it is.” “And freezing.” “Is it?” “Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.” — A.A. Milne
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