OWN: How Do We Pursue Happiness.

Pursuit of happinessSep 21, 2011 – Oprah Winfrey’s Primetime on OWN with Deborah Roberts, aired an ABC Special on the Keys to Happiness originally taped in 2008, but it’s message is timeless. Hosted by Bill Weir, he reminds us that our pursuit of happiness is guaranteed in the Declaration of Independence. And today this is truly the land of the happy hour, the happy meal, the smiley face :-). While we are in full pursuit, can happiness be caught?

Bill Weir examines 6 fundamental theories on the pursuit of happiness.

1. It is impossible to predict future Happiness! And that’s because happiness is controlled by a part of the brain called the frontal lobe which also gives us the ability to imagine. But Yale professor and author of Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert says imagination can fail you. The future that you imagine is not always the future in which you are going to find yourself.

2. Society oftens tricks us! For example, society tells us to grow up and have a family of your own. But research has shown that having children doesn’t make you any happier.  And having teenage children will make you even miserable. 900 moms in Texas were asked to record the activities that made them happy moment by moment each day.  Socializing, praying, sex and watching television topped the list.  Parenting came in right around house work! Bill says our brains remembers the highs of  our babies warm hugs and their first steps but they forget the lows of diapers and tantrums. This selective memory keeps us breeding. Society also tells us that money will buy us Happiness through all the advertising we are bombarded with.  But Daniel Gilbert says money only buys you happiness if (A) You spend it right (B) You don’t have much of it to start with and (C) You have more of it than all the people you know!

3. It doesn’t matter what you do but who you do it with! Bill Weir introduced us to Sean, a young man who had 43 different jobs in 43 weeks on a year long quest to raise money for charity. He liked being a brew master, dairy farmer and a bungee instructor, but hated selling stuff at trade shows.  Sean says he constantly asked people what they like about their jobs and the common answer was the people they worked with. The people and the relationships that they develop keeps bringing them back to work everyday.

4. Happiness is a choice. You can actually force positive changes in your brain. Bill explains that positive psychologists broke down the work force into three categories:  jobs, careers, and calling.  The happiest were those who followed their calling.  But right behind them are those that through sheer will turned their jobs into a calling.  He showed us Paul, a New York City cab driver. He’s happy.  But how? 12 hours a day he deals with some of the worst traffic and some of the worst people.  But Paul forces himself to be positive.  He tells corny jokes and gives thank you cards.  He says that way he has a more positive day, a more positive week, and a more positive life.  His reward, higher tips and happier shifts!

5. Flow! Flow is that transcended state when a person becomes so engaged in their passion that they lose all sense of themselves.  It can come from any million different activities like reading, teaching, talking, surfing.  Artist Jonas finds his flow with a brush, paint, and canvass.  Jonas tells us about how he had a horrible toothache but when he starts painting he can’t feel it.  He says his flow is like a train. You can’t stop it! When he is into it, he can paint 3 or 4 paintings in just one night!

6. Human beings are social animals. Daniel Gilbert says this would be the one thing to know if you want to understand humans. Almost every one of our greatest sources of joy is a social source of joy. There is something about our interaction with or our relationship with another person. Charlie Todd and his group called Improv Everywhere brings joy and laughter to complete strangers by doing shocking, public elaborate stunts. Like a dozen or so of them taking a subway ride on a cold winter’s day winter with no outer pants, just boxers! Their goal is to brighten someone’s day by giving them an out of the ordinary experience to laugh at!

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