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Turn Your Life Crisis into Lasting Happiness !

Life crises come in all shapes and sizes, and usually when we least expect them.

There are many possible such moments of crisis – from retirement to bereavement, from divorce to a severe health breakdown, from bankruptcy to dismissal. There are many others, and they can affect all of us at some time or another in our lives. In my case, I have suffered through two divorces, two bereavements, a major business crash, and a serious attempted suicide. The effects can be serious and long-lasting.

Naturally, we all see the dark side of any life crisis, be it a bereavement, a divorce, losing your job, or whatever. But if you are able to step back a little, look hard at your life, consider your strengths and your weaknesses, you may very well be able to make changes to your life which will result in that elusive state, true happiness and contentment. You may have just lost a well paid job as a finance director, for instance. But you know, deep inside, that you would be much happier doing something else, something quite different – let’s say running a flower nursery. Definitions of tue happiness abound on the internet:

-Happiness comes down to the difference between commitment and attachment -Happiness is social relationships -Happiness is individualistic, varying from one person to another -Happiness is a recipe that includes a number of ingredients -Happiness and unhappiness are two sides of the same coin -Happiness is the highest good -Happiness is about having each tiny wish come true -Happiness is delivered through focussing on the key areas of your life -Happiness is connected with diet and exercise -Happiness is not something that happens to you. It is inside you now -Happiness is the most important and the ultimate objective in life -Happiness is a set of skills you must learn

You really do have to do a careful self analysis.

One of the best-selling books of recent times was written by Dr Tal David Ben-Shahar and is entitled “Happiness 101”. With its associated television programmes and dvd’s, it derives from a course taught by Dr Ben-Shahar to students at Harvard University. In the course, Dr Ben-Shahar describes experiences as being pleasureable or meaningful or both, and it is the overlap of the two which brings happiness. He teaches goal-oriented Harvard students to learn that happiness is the ultimate currency, not wealth or success. They should focus on the journey, enjoying each little thing along the way, rather than concentrating on the goal.

Common sense ? Perhaps. But how many of us look at life in this way ? Try googling Happiness 101 with Tal Ben-Shahar.

There is a new branch of science known as Positive Psychology, which has been developed by Dr Martin Seligman, of the University of Pennsylvania, where he is Director of the Centre of Positive Psychology. Dr Seligman is successfully wooing the study of pyschology away from its traditional narrow minded focus on pathology, victimology, and mental illness to positive emotion, virtue and strength, and positive institutions.

Genes or luck do not in themselves create happiness. We can cultivate happiness, however, by identifying and developing many of the strengths and traits we already possess. Dr Seligman terms these “signature strengths”, and declares these can be nutured and developed into natural buffers against the misfortunes and negative emotions we all suffer, resulting in marked improvements in our relationships, careers, and health. This is why a life crisis is such a good moment to examine ourselves in order to identify our “signature strengths”.

Dr Seligman has devised a “Signature Strengths Survey” to assist with this process.

Much more can be learned at his website at Authentic Happiness (http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/Default.aspx).

Finally, if you really want to take your life in hand and achieve real and lasting happiness, try googling these:

BBC News: The Happiness Formula, American Psychological Association (APA), European Network for Positive Psychology, National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Positive Organizational Scholarship at the University of Michigan School of Business, Positive Psychology Center: Research Information, Quality of Life Research Center, VIA Institute on Character, Positive Psychology Anthem.

Peter Shaw is a semi retired writer, bookseller and bookbinder living in the Great Karoo, South Africa. He writes articles and eBooks on the central themes of retirement and happiness. Read more on Peter’s website atabcdigitalbooks

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