Photo Credit: Good Fon
The Pursuit of Happiness. It sounds like a wonderful goal and a rewarding journey doesn’t it?
The pursuit of happiness can in fact be detrimental to our ‘greater happiness’ because we can focus on how we should feel instead of assessing and reacting to how we actually feel. Lets say we have had a tough week at work and when we go for a run (mindful running) we know it can release tension. We may say things to ourselves things such as ‘I should feel better… but I don’t’ and ‘a run normally clears my head but I can’t stop thinking about my problems.’ According to Barbara Fredrickson (a Professor at the University of North Carolina and Director of Positive Emotions and author) emotions are brief micro moments. Instead of forcing our emotions in how we think we should feel it is important that we utilise our surroundings to embrace our feelings.
Through the use and practice of mindfulness we can begin to appreciate the beauty of our surroundings and peoples emotions and reactions around us. Mindfulness is a practice to become present minded and bring in alignment with our mind and body. Although emotions can be incredibly brief they are like waves and can produce much greater waves of emotion as they develop. This is incredibly insightful as with practices and a deeper understanding of Positive Psychology we can understand scientifically how emotions work and react in a way that is much healthier for us with a clearer road map. This is not to say we should seek to manipulate our emotions, far from it. And this certainly does not mean that it is healthy to feel positive all of the time. However we can learn to understand negative emotions better and what we should do next.
Instead of the pursuit of happiness we should instead curate environments based on daily habits that have the best chance to bring us micro moments of happiness. During these moments of happiness, joy, positivity we can learn to enhance them and also be aware of our negative emotions and learn more about ourselves.
Through the scientific study of positive emotions according to Barbara Fredrickson we can see our brains change in the way that they work when we first experience positive emotion. Our awareness and vantage point expands and we are open to further positive emotions, increased creativity and new ideas. We are also much more open to kinder interaction and more mutual understanding between other humans. This is known as the Broaden and Build Theory. This can lead to deeper moments of happiness and more micro moments of positivity for us and also others and our community due to how we respond to these emotions.
The pursuit of happiness is also an interesting term. We can dissect this term and notice a key element to the phrase and highlight the term ‘pursuit’. Could we not assess that the pursuit i.e the daily activity might bring us the most micro moments of happiness and the curation of more? Could we not be mindful and enjoy the journey?
Sadly most of us focus most of our daily energy on jobs that make us unhappy and maladaptive behaviours that do not bring us happiness and instead we focus on something to take away the stress such as alcohol.
Would it not be a much healthier daily plan if we focused our energies on the curation of daily activity that brought us micro moments of positive emotion?
The diagram above does not portray the pursuit of happiness; it resembles the concept that if we live a life of meaning and embrace the journey then happiness will come. By living a life with daily values and in time creating positive communities using our skill sets we can create environments the promote our well-being and happiness.
Pursue the creation of an environment that brings you beautiful moments of joy and embrace those moments and learn from them instead of pursuing happiness. Give this method some time and thought. The results may surprise you.
If you would like to learn how to create a healthy purpose built environment feel free to look at our work Build Your World.
Wishing you health and well-being.
Thank you for reading.
David Chorlton; Meaningful Paths Founder.