“In your life expect some trouble
When you worry you make it double
Don’t worry be happy…
Ain't got no place to lay your head
Somebody came and took your bed
Don't worry, be happy.”
--Bobby McFerrin song – “DON’T WORRY BE HAPPY”
Happiness is an elusive human emotion and comes to us in so many unexpected ways.
What makes you happy?
The concept of “happy” has been studied, written about and sought after for centuries, I suppose since the first human had conscious thought. But to this day it is still a very loosely defined human emotion.
One interesting scientific theory I ran across is that happiness is simply electromagnetic energy we can actually perceive as internal sensation of feelings.
I’m not a rocket scientist, but I can follow that thought process.
If sound and light travel in waves and everything emits some wave length of energy, then various stimuli in our environment will emit a wave length that we might connect to with a feeling of happiness.
This theorist submits that if the right equipment is available, we could actually measure exact values of happiness.
I suppose Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov did something similar with dogs in the early 1900s.
Pavlov investigated the gastric function of dogs, and later children, by externalizing a salivary gland so he could collect, measure, and analyze the saliva and what response it had to food under different conditions.
He noticed that the dogs tended to salivate before food was actually delivered to their mouths and set out to investigate this "psychic secretion" as he called it.
So really, it’s the anticipation of happiness that really floats our boat, makes us salivate.
Think about it; when you’re getting ready to go on a long-awaited vacation, the preparations stimulate a reaction of happiness – sometimes, the anticipation is as enjoyable as the vacation itself.
Or when you are waiting at the airport to greet your beloved significant other who you haven’t seen in too long a time; sitting there trying to be patient – the anticipation solicits all sorts of happy feelings.
As Carly Simon sings, “Anticipation, is makin’ me late, is keeping me waitin’.”
So really, happiness is the anticipation of things that we know by past experience makes us feel good.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said it thusly: “Life is a journey, not a destination.”
So we can actually summon happiness simply by closing our eyes and “going to our happy place;” just thinking about things that make us happy can elicit a happy state of mind – at least theoretically.
The trick is to determine what makes us happy; then, any time we’re not happy, we should be able to draw on happy experiences to “get our happy on.”
I ran across an article a couple years ago by Clara Moskowitz of LiveScience which purports that, “Some scientists have argued that happiness is largely determined by genetics, health and other factors mostly outside of our control. But recent research suggests people actually can take charge of their own happiness and boost it through certain practices.”
The article cites a scientific review of 51 studies that tested attempts to increase happiness through different types of positive thinking. They discovered that it significantly enhanced well-being and noted the top five things that can improve happiness; they were:
• Be grateful – writing letters of gratitude to people who helped in some way resulted in a lasting increase in happiness.
• Be optimistic – visualizing and actually documenting a positive vision in a journal led to increased feelings of well-being.
• Count your blessings – writing down three good things that happened every week showed significant boosts in happiness.
• Use your strengths – identifying greatest strengths and using them in new ways heightened happiness.
• Commit acts of kindness – this shouldn’t be a surprise, but it turns out helping others also helps ourselves.
So, how do you “get your happy on?”
Never thought about it? Maybe on this Friday as the weekend looms ahead, it would be a good time to thinking about it, visualize it, then go out and do it. And to make you feel even happier, you can share it with other Weekenders right here.
Randy Gaddo , a retired Marine who also served for 15 years in municipal parks and recreation, is now a full-time photojournalist who lives in Peachtree City, Ga.; he can be reached at (678) 350-8642 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.