It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. It doesn’t matter how old you happen to be. One of the main issues presented by people who seek therapy or counseling is how to deal with various issues that happened during their youth. They feel stuck because of an incident or the memory of an embarrassing situation that still haunts them. Some report that they can’t get past what happened in the 3rd grade or that their skin problems as a preteen made the middle school/high school years unbearable. Despite the tribulations that can make childhood feel overwhelming and depressing, we are not obligated to live as if that is all that composes our lives. I believe that it is never too late to make a positive change, especially one that can impact the rest of your life for the better!
There has been lots of research and news about the science of Happiness over the past decade. There are books available that offer to help you define what happiness is, how to measure happiness, as well as how to increase the happiness in your life. What makes a person happy? The answer will vary from person to person, taking into account day of the week, time of day, and where you happen to be. For me, it can be pretty simple – a trip to Starbucks for a skinny vanilla latte usually does the trick. For someone else, it may be a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. But, is that really happiness? Sure, it makes us feel better. But is true happiness based on things around us, be it chocolate, coffee, or even other people?
Research conducted by Dr. Martin Seligman over the past ten years has identified happiness to be an important component to our lives in regard to our own general health and quite possibly our lifespan. After all, anger and hostility produce high levels of stress-related chemicals which are hard on our bodies. Happiness does the exact opposite and is good for us. Dr. Seligman’s research focused on whether you could build more positive emotion or happiness into one’s life. The answer is YES!
One example of experiments conducted in this area questioned whether happiness comes more from performing a kind act or from doing something considered ‘fun’, such as playing golf, taking a bubble bath or reading a book. Results showed that the ‘afterglow’ of a pleasurable activity paled in comparison to the good feelings associated with performing an act of kindness, such as taking someone a surprise meal or paying the toll for the car behind you. This effect was also increased when the acts of kindness were spontaneous and used one’s personal strengths. What are personal strengths? They are the basic characteristic virtues which are found across cultures. Dr. Seligman has identified 24 strengths or traits, including optimism, curiosity, and gratitude.
So, what can you do to increase the level of happiness in your life? It really can be simple but necessarily easy. Dr. Seligman identified the following: – live in a wealthy democracy – get married – avoid negative events and emotions, focus on the positive – build a strong social network – having religious beliefs
In contrast, the following do not influence happiness as much as you think: – making more money (more materialism = less happy) – health – more education – moving to a sunnier climate
I believe that one of the easier steps to take is to focus on the positives, which is within our control. I often recommend to clients that they start putting PLAY back into their lives. Yes, I get some resistance but they finally come around. Play is how we learned as children. Play allows us a chance to develop our personal strengths. Most of our life tasks require us to be creative, generous, and tolerant of others, which we practice when we play. Imagine yourself going barefoot in the grass, blowing bubbles, flying a kite, or watch the moon and stars come out. Hopefully, at least one image brought a smile or a chuckle. Give yourself the right to play, to focus on the positives and enjoy what you have. Despite whatever the earlier years may have brought, you can still enjoy the child within you today!
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Dr. Jacqui Lewis-Lyons is a Clinical Psychologist and a Life Coach who works with women and children around issues related to health and stress problems. She has over 2o years experience in the mental health field. Dr. Jacqui enjoys helping clients make their lives more positive and satisfying as they reach their goals. She is located in Columbus, Ohio. Her practice is Personal Wholeness Solutions, the website is www.PWSLifeCoach.com .