For a young woman with a myriad of health issues Wendy Holcomb is one of the most spunky, positive people I’ve encountered on the blog-o-sphere. In her own words:“I have a few chronic illnesses that are a part of my life: Meniere’s Disease (this has caused severe hearing loss), Gluten Intolerance, Fructose Malabsorption, chronic migraines, Hypothyroidism, Hypoglycemia, chronic pelvic pain, Bi-Polar II Disorder and chronic hip trouble. However, I’m determined to
find a way to live an active, useful, and happy life!“
How does Wendy remain so positive? What makes us happy? What makes us unhappy? All the psychology research FINALLY being done on happiness (instead of despair, decay and decadence) appears to have common threads.
University of California psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky finds that “. . .practicing acts of kindness both random (let that harried mom go ahead of you in the checkout line) and systematic (bring Sunday supper to an elderly neighbor) triggers a cascade of positive [neurochemical] effects—it makes you feel generous and capable, gives you a greater sense of connection with others and wins you smiles, approval and reciprocated kindness—all happiness boosters.”
Psychologist Martin Seligman provides the acronym PERMA to summarize Positive Psychology’s correlational findings: Humans seem happiest when they have
- Pleasure (tasty foods, warm baths, etc.)
- Engagement (or flow, the absorption of an enjoyed yet challenging activity)
- Relationships (social ties have turned out to be extremely reliable indicator of happiness)
- Meaning (a perceived quest or belonging to something bigger)
- Accomplishments (having realized tangible goals).
There is also a growing body of evidence that correlates “contentment” with just three things:
- A sense of belonging (a community, faith group, family)
- The ability to contribute artistically (self-expression in any form)
- Service (to others).