BY STEPHANIE LOUGH
Money can’t buy it, many are in pursuit of it, and health experts suggest it–happiness. Finding happiness is one of our most basic life goals, right after “staying alive.” We spend our entire lives trying to cultivate happiness through maintaining relationships, pursuing satisfying careers, and becoming self-content. While successes in these areas can heavily influence one’s happiness, it is sometimes difficult to be successful in one area without sacrificing another. Being capable of balancing your personal and professional life while still taking time for yourself is a sought-after formula that has been the topic of many books, and has launched the careers of many health experts. So, what is the secret?
“When we live in balance, we support our body’s inherent state of health and well-being and naturally feel more satisfied and fulfilled,” says internationally renowned health expert and author Dr. Deepak Chopra.
According to Chopra, people mistakenly believe if they succeed in measurable values, like salary, that they will become happy. The reality, however, is that happier individuals are statistically more likely to enjoy relationships, good health and fulfilling careers.
“Most people seek happiness in a roundabout way, hoping to find it by earning more money, getting a promotion…they believe that when they get what they want, then they will be happy,” Chopra said.
Of course, there are many ways to create a healthy balance and strengthen each of the crucial areas of life, which will in turn promote happiness in all aspects of life.
To really be happy, the first person you need to work on is yourself, both mentally and physically. Your body is happy when it is healthy and responds accordingly.
“Scientific research shows, people who are happy tend to be healthier than those who are chronically stressed, angry, anxious, or depressed,” says Chopra. “The body and mind are inextricably connected.”
Chopra goes on to explain that chemically, every thought, feeling, and emotion you feel creates a molecule known as a neuropeptide which latches onto receptor sites of cells and neurons. Your body is directly influenced as these molecules deliver the energetic effect of the emotions you are feeling. Thus, if we are feeling stressed, molecules that cause stress and damage will adversely affect our health. Conversely, happy and excited feelings promote healthy, energetic molecules.
Although it sounds easy enough, people cannot always choose to feel happy. To begin feeling more relaxed and less stressed, Chopra recommends exercising regularly and meditating often. Daily affirmations can help the mind create positive neuropeptides, creating a domino effect of happiness and fulfillment.
Learning to love
In addition to working on you, a quick way to feel happy is to appreciate others. According to Chopra, opening your heart and giving freely and without expectations is the way to instant happiness. That’s why it is no wonder that love–possibly the most powerful of all emotions–and the state of a person’s romantic relationship weigh heavily on his or her happiness.
“It’s important to have trust that your partner really cares about you and your best interest [and vice versa],” says therapist Virginia Kelley, ACSW, LCSW of Scottsdale Psychotherapy. “There has to be open, tactfully honest communication about how you are feeling about each other, your needs, wants, desires.”
According to Kelley, who specializes in relationship problems, marital issues and pre-marital preparation, healthy relationships are ones with mutual respect, patience, values and ethics, and they are constantly evolving.
“When we feel loved, we typically take better care of our health, because we know someone cares that we are healthy, look good, and have energy. Loving relationships are good for our health and our careers,” she says.
However, not all relationships are healthy, and knowing how to identify bad relationships and let go of soured romances helps a person balance their emotions as well.
“If we don’t compartmentalize our feelings and our lives, they bleed into each other. Stressful relationships and break-ups impact our concentration at our jobs, and depression affects our health,” Kelley continues. “We feel alone in the world and fear no one wants us. We need good people to surround and comfort us, keep us from our loneliness. When we are loved and have someone with whom we can share our concerns, we feel rejuvenated and supported during tough times.”
Cultivating a worthwhile career
One place where happiness needs to be relevant is our workplace. On average, the majority of people spend a third of their time at work–and sometimes the issues at work filter into the home and vice versa. Emotions that spill over from other aspects of life can positively or negatively affect job performance, and ultimately your mood.
Defining happiness in a career is perhaps the most difficult, as it is easy to put a monetary value on someone’s success–but that doesn’t always equal happiness.
According to George Fleming, managing principal at Momentum Coaching Resources, LLC, a career coaching and transitional assistance company, the ways people measure success in terms of job satisfaction differ between generations.
“Many of the Baby Boomers initially used money and power as key criteria early in their careers,” says Fleming. “I’ve found that, as their mid-career point hits, a number of them get a gnawing dissatisfaction with their work and seek ‘significance’ in their work and in their lives.”
Fleming believes more recent generations have brought job satisfaction and life-balance to the top of their priority lists, far outranking the bottom line of their pay stubs.
“They don’t always know what will bring that satisfaction right away, but they’re clearly in search of it,” he continues.
Finding the ideal job is not always as easy as “do what you love”; after all, there are still bills to be paid and work to be done. A fulfilling job is one that equally addresses passion, skills, and material rewards.
If you have the flexibility to change jobs or career paths, be sure to identify which skills and experiences are as important to you as they are relevant to the industry.
One way to avoid feeling dissatisfied with your job is to stop comparing yourself with other employees.
“We reflexively compare ourselves to our co-workers–the tasks we’re assigned, the praise we receive, the promotions we earn. Doing so can embitter us if we don’t feel properly rewarded or recognized,” advises Fleming. “If you focus on your role, being the very best at it, and informally training a subordinate to succeed you, you place yourself in the best position to be praised and promoted.”
Balancing a career with the other areas of your life is no easy task either, as jobs tend to take time away from relationships and personal desires. Designating times to step away from an assignment and focus on other things–working out, time with friends and love ones–is crucial for harmony and happiness.
Trying to achieve happiness by balancing the most influential areas of life–personal well-being, relationships and your career–can feel like climbing Mount Everest.
While we can’t will ourselves happy, there is certainly plenty we can do to be proactive and achieve some level of satisfaction. Finding a state of happiness depends so much on your point of view. Happiness is not a one-time thing, but a life decision to focus on what really matters, and striving to be better in certain parts of life can only improve the whole.