You don't realize how much of it is up to you.
This might be a good time to remind people what real happiness requires. A psychologist named William James said one of the greatest discoveries of any generation is that a human can alter his life by altering his attitude. That is true, but he cannot alter his destiny. That is controlled by the Almighty.
But here are some crucial elements to real happiness:
- Simply try. Simply trying to be happier can elevate your mood and your well-being. I know some people are not morning people, for example, and some can’t get up out of bed perky-perky, but you have to try. Don’t just declare, “I’m not a morning person!” and proceed to be miserable. That’s you making the choice to be miserable.
- Linger on positive thoughts. If you want to fight giveupitis, write down your blessings so you can look at them. And on the other side of the paper, write down the things you need to change that are negative in your life.
- Turn down the noise in your life. Focus on the things that are important. People who are constantly tied to their cell phone and their iPad, and every time they get a message they feel compelled to respond no matter where they are, texting while driving, texting while having dinner . . . you know the people I’m talking about. Don’t be one of them! Turn down the noise in your life!
- Mindfulness. The University of Wisconsin psychology professor Richard Davidson found that meditation practices can shift brain activity from the right side to the left, which can correlate with happier ways of thinking. To me, this is about faith. That is why, after a church service (I’m a Baptist), I feel rejuvenated, even though the problems have not changed.
- Smile. A 2011 Michigan State University study found that workers who smiled exhibited improved moods. I know about this. When I was going through Burger Boot Camp at Burger King, I was a district manager operating out of at a restaurant in Hopkins, Minnesota. I was told, “Increase the sales.” I said, OK, how? He said, you’re smart, you figure it out! So one day I decided to look at the people on the registers, and I looked at the customers, and I made an observation. We had eight cash registers and eight people filling the orders. So I just watched the customers and watched the servers, and I noticed that I had four lines with people walking away with smiles on their faces, and four other lines with people walking away with gloom on their faces. No surprise, the customers walking away happy had been waited on by employees with a smile on their face. Don’t underestimate the power of a smile.
- Gratitude. Grateful people tend to appreciate simple pleasures, those pleasures available to most people, according to a report in the Journal of Social Behavior and Personality. You can’t go through life with a gimme gimme gimme attitude. Life is also about giving to others, especially in need.
- Pursuit. Conventional wisdom has it that pursuit of success will lead to happiness. No. They’ve got it all wrong. A lot of people are coming around to the Herman Cain way of thinking on this. It’s happiness that leads to success!
- Compassion. You want to increase your brain’s capacity for happiness? Try meditating on compassion.
Now here is my personal formula for happiness, which I learned many years ago from a preacher’s sermon.
- Something to do.
- Someone to love.
- A great profession.
- Something to hope for.
I’m blessed in all four of these areas, and that’s been my key to happiness.
What are some of yours?