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Looking for happiness

Shawn Achor,  the winner of over a dozen distinguished teaching awards at Harvard University, has become one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between happiness and success. In his opinion, the formula to achieve happiness is clear: “Work harder, then you’ll be successful, then you’ll be happier”.  Indeed, when he asked some of his  Harvard students, their answer was easy: “I’m working my butt off now so I can be happy when … [fill in the blank with a six figure banking job, make a scientific breakthrough, get into medical school, etc.].” However, does happiness consist on that?

Happiness changes depending on the person. For some individuals happiness is thought as being healthy forever, while for another kind of people it consists just on having money and for others just loving someone. Nevertheless, psychologists, doctors, neurologists, psychiatrists etc. are trying to find out the real happiness that lies beyond the meanings we relate it to today.

Besides, it is important to mention that some individuals have a kind of predisposition. In other words, some people due to genetic information or simply because of the experiences they have lived are more likely to live more happily. Indeed, I am going to focus on the fact that some people are happier than others and how this sort of individuals could be distinguished  regarding an article of the “Huffpost Healthy Living” blog, written by Jacob Sokol. 12 THINGS HAPPY PEOPLE DO DIFFERENTLY. In order to see these 12 things, I am going to use the example of what happened to Jacob Sokol and how did he find out happiness.

“A lot of people have midlife crises. Me, I had a quarter-life crisis a few years ago, when I turned 24. There was no impulse purchase involving a red Mustang or electric guitar, but as my iPhone alarm woke me up bright and early for work one morning in my two-bedroom NYC apartment, I pondered, “Do I have everything — or nothing at all? [1]

Beeing in this situation, he decided to embark on a journey to in a way, not only find himself but also what real happiness was. Thus, he found out the 12 things happy people do differently. Early on, he stumbled across the following quote from Dan Millman:

“I’d always believed that a life of quality, enjoyment, and wisdom were my human birthright and would be automatically bestowed upon me as time passed. I never suspected that I would have to learn how to live — that there were specific disciplines and ways of seeing the world I had to master before I could awaken to a simple, happy, uncomplicated life [2].” 

Eventually, he found that studies conducted by positivity psychologist    Sonja Lyumbomirky showed 12 things happy people do differently in order to increase their levels of happiness. Of course, these dozen things can be done by any of us at any age or stage of life [3]:

1. Express gratitude: Being grateful for the goodness that we already have.

2. Cultivate optimism: “People who think optimistically see the world as a place packed with endless opportunities, especially in trying times [4].”

3. Avoid over-thinking and social comparison: Comparing yourself to someone else can be poisonous. On the one hand, if we think we are “better” than the other person we are comparing ourselves to, it gives us an unhealthy sense of superiority. On the other hand, if we are “worse” than we normally discredit not only the hard work that we have done but also dismiss all the progress we have made. Besides, if you have to describe yourself, describe it with you in another moment of your life.

4. Practice acts of kindness:  Making an act of kindness releases serotonin in our brain. Serotonin is a substance that has enormous health benefits such as including making us feel more blissful.

5. Nurture social relationships: Undoubtedly, the happiest people on the planet are the ones who have deep, meaningful relationships. Indeed, studies show that people´s mortality rates are doubled when they are lonely.

6. Develop strategies for coping: The way we respond to the “craptastic” moments are undoubtedly, what shape our character. Sometimes crap happens since it is inevitable.

7. Learn to forgive: When we harbor feelings of hatred is horrible for our well-being. When we “hate” someone, and consequently we are continuously thinking about it, those negative emotions could be toxic for us.

8. Increase flow experiences: Flow is a kind of state in which we feel time stands still. This happens when we are so focused on what we are doing. We become one with the task.

9. Savor life’s joys: Deep happiness could not exist without slowing down to enjoy the joy.

10. Commit to your goals: We can achieve something really difficult or almost impossible, when we commit ourselves to doing whatever it takes to get somewhere.

11. Practice spirituality: Practicing spirituality or religion, we recognize that life is bigger than us. Moreover, it enables us not only to connect to the source of all creation but also to embrace a connectedness with everything that exists.

12. Take care of your body: If we do not posses our physical energy in good shape, our mental energy, emotional energy and our spiritual energy will all be negatively affected [5]. In conclusion, we have seen that we do not need the latest mobile phone, flashy car or whatever. Just as Jacob Sokol said:

“Just simple, scientifically-grounded wisdom for long-term happiness.”


  1. Sosol, J. Huffpost Healthy Living blog.
  2. Millman, D. Way of the Peaceful Warrier. H.J.KRAMER, 1984. Print.
  3. Lyubomirsky, Sonja. The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want. New York: Penguin Press, 2008. Print.
  4.   Tiger, Lionel. Optimism: The Biology of Hope. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979. Print.
  5. Loehr, James E, and Tony Schwartz. The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal. New York: Free Press, 2003. Print.



2 responses to “Looking for happiness

  1. Shawn Achor December 30, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    Thanks for helping to share the research! Best wishes for a large ripple effect in 2013…

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