What is happiness?
Is it something you are born with, or is it something you can create?
And, is it something that you can actually influence in a lasting and meaningful way?
Finding happiness is a lot easier said than done.
Unfortunately, as a society, many people expect that more money, marriage, physical attractiveness, or where they live will make them happier.
But, it turns out you many have it backwards. Science shows that one of the best ways to make more money is to first become happier.
Can you truly increase your happiness level?
Listen in as Jonah Paquette, PysD, joins Melanie Cole, MS, to share what happiness is NOT, as well as the common myths you should let go of in order to truly experience a life of happiness and well-being.
RadioMD Presents: Health Radio | Original Air Date: June 1, 2015
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest: Jonah Paquette
This is Health Radio with Melanie Cole.
MELANIE: What is happiness? Is it something we are born with or is it something that we can actually create? Is it something we can actually influence in a meaningful way that will last throughout our lives? You know, it can be lot easier said than done to find happiness. Unfortunately, as a society, we've have always expected that if we had more money, I'd be much happier. If my marriage was better, I'd be much happier. If I wasn't so fat or I didn't like my thighs, I'd be much happier. You know, all of these things tend to come into our minds on a daily basis. As it turns out, we may all have it backwards because science is showing that one of the best ways to make more money is to become happier.
My guest is Dr. Jonah Paquette. He is a clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and he specializes in happiness and well-being. Welcome to the show, Dr. Paquette. So, tell us a little bit about increasing our happiness level. Will that help us to be better people, more successful at our weight loss or our job? How do we -- maybe we've had it in the reverse all along.
DR. PAQUETTE: You hit the nail in the head there, Melanie. First of all, thank you so much for having me on this morning. It’s a real honor to be on with you. That's the one of the most exciting findings in the research coming out over the last decade or so. You know, as you have mentioned, it's not that if we achieve certain things, we'll become happy. If we marry the person of our dreams, we'll become happy. If we make more money, we'll magically become happy. Actually, it's kind of the reverse that one of the -- happiness not only feels good, it's really good for us as well. It's good for our health. Happy people tend to live longer, have fewer illnesses, they have stronger relationships, they are more likely to get married and stay married, they are more likely to earn more money and get the promotions at work. So, it's really that all those outcomes that we think are associated with happiness, but it’s in the reverse--that if we find ways to become lastingly happier, we are more likely to achieve those things.
MELANIE: So, we hear it even in the movies. In Legally Blonde, she says, "Happy people just don't commit crimes." You know? It’s kind of what you are saying. So, how do we pull ourselves out, Dr. Paquette from this vicious cycle that we are in all the time, of worry and, you know, what are we going to do, how are we going to do this, and be happy? I am generally a happy person most of the time. I worry a lot but I do look at life in a very positive way. I try to anyway. How do we pull ourselves of that rut of everyday things? Give us some exercises, things we can do.
DR. PAQUETTE: Sure. There are a couple of important things there, too. It’s not that happiness -- those things that we mentioned: getting a financial windfall, having our favorite team win. You know, we have got the NBA finals coming up with the Warriors out here. Those things do make us happy but it tends to be very misleading. It tends to be here one minute and gone the next. Lasting happiness is a little different. I think one thing we get kind of confused and hung up on is, we get kind of the Hollywood version of happiness on our mind--feeling good, positive emotion, kind of oblivion. That’s kind of the image that we have in mind when it comes to happiness. But from a research stand point, real happiness has a lot more to do with life satisfaction, feeling like our life is generally where we want be. We are connected to the people that matter, the things that matter, the cause that matter, having a sense of meaning and purpose. Those tend to be lot more stable as opposed to positive emotion. We can be a happy person and still have stress. We can be a happy person and still worry and have anxiety but we are realizing that only about 10% of our happiness is due to the circumstances around us like how much money we make, did we get married or not, did we get a promotion or not. Fifty percent is actually due to our genes.
DR. PAQUETTE: So, whether our parents, so our first degree relatives -- 50% of our happiness tends to be connected to, or just around that to, our genetics.
MELANIE: So, if we had happier parents, if we had parents that were or grandparents, you know, relatives that were generally -- I am from six children and the youngest of six and my parents were married a long time, 53 years or so. They always seemed happy as much as the yelling with the teenagers and the things that go on in everyday life, they seemed happy and I think maybe my -
DR. PAQUETTE: It makes a difference.
MELANIE: I think it really does. What can we do? What can people do? Right now. Today.
DR. PAQUETTE: It sort of like weight. It’s something--we are naturally predisposed to be thinner or heavier but you can still do a lot. That's where the 40% comes in. So, in my books for example I write about seven principles that are connected to happiness: cultivating gratitude, practicing kindness and altruism, practicing mindfulness, self-compassion, cultivating connection with other people, forgiveness and creating an optimistic mindset. And so, unlike chasing the things that we often do--you know money, fortune, getting that new car down the block--if we devote our energies more to those sorts of principles--to each day that we are around noticing things that we are grateful for; taking ten minutes out of the day to practice mindfulness and meditation; fostering the connections with people that matter, which is so easy to kind of lose track of in this world.
MELANIE: It is so easy to put it off these days or just do it through social media, Facebook, “Hey! How is it going? Haven't seen you in a while? We should get together soon.” But you're saying -
DR. PAQUETTE: Precisely. So, we are more connected to people but real connections have suffered is what of the research shows. There are more people are lonely today than in past generations even though we are connected in way that we never were before. So, taking time to really do things like that with our relationships, to practice acts of kindness--even just small acts of kindness--can make a huge difference in terms of our health, our wellbeing, our mind set, so these changes aren't -- they are not new and they are not -- They are ideas that have been around for a long time but something that the research has done in the last ten years is just to say, “Okay, what works and what doesn't when it comes to lastingly boosting our happiness. And how do we do it in a way that's practical and realistic for peoples’ lives.”
MELANIE: I like that you mentioned self-compassion because there is so much negative self-talk that goes on these days, especially with women. We wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and go, “Oh, god! Where do those bags come from? When did my hands get to look so old?” So, we really need to stop doing that, correct? Because that fosters that negative feeling.
DR. PAQUETTE: That has been one of the real areas I have been in for the last five years that the researchers shed great light on. How crucial it is to learn to talk to ourselves the way we talk to other people. Because many of us tend to be our worst critic and we think that's going to drive ourselves to do better in some ways but it actually demoralizes us. It leads to depression, it leads to anxiety, low self-esteem. So, just kind of learning to put the brakes on that tendency and talk to our -
MELANIE: And also kids hear that. I think our kids hear that. If they hear us looking in the mirror and go, “Geeze, when did my ass get that big,” and then the kids will hear that and maybe grow up to be just like that. So, we don't want our kids to even hear that. So, we just have a minute left, Dr. Paquette, so your best advice in this last minute for achieving that happiness and what we can do. You mentioned some really good things that we can try today. Give us a few more.
DR. PAQUETTE: Well, I would say if people want simple things they can do every day that’s been shown to make a huge change in terms of wellbeing. Writing down three things each and every day that we feel thankful for, that went well today,4 and making them different each and every day. So that over the course of a week you have got 21 good things that helps shift our perspective out of that depressive mindset into a more optimistic one. Second thing would be, choosing one day a week to be your kind of day of kindness. Go out and create 3 to 5 small acts of kindness that you wouldn't normally do. Could be holding a door for somebody, reaching out to friend who is in need, something small but real. Those are the examples of things that if we do, the research shows that if we stick with that, it actually can create some huge boosts in terms of our happiness and wellbeing if we commit to those practices.
MELANIE: Great ideas, great practices and I think I definitely want to try some of those for sure. The book is Real Happiness: Proven Paths for Contentment, Peace & Well-Being and you can see more about Dr. Paquette at jonahpaquette.com.
This is Melanie Cole and you are listening to Health Radio right here on RadioMD. We are your health news network. We are the go to place for on demand, real time health news. It’s great information, spread it around, share it with your friends because that's how we can all maybe be a little happier. Reconnect with some friends. That was great advice. Thanks so much for listening. Stay tuned and stay well.