Because I'm Happy!
This week is being celebrated as world happiness week. The very fact that there is a celebration makes me happy. As I completed a survey which was supposedly to measure my perception of happiness, I thought of what I believed happiness to be. I came up with one word A-G-I-L-I-T-Y. For me, happiness means agility.
Life comes with many bumps, twists and turns, highs and lows. That is what makes life interesting I suppose. In this our fast-paced, ever-changing world, it can be difficult to find lasting happiness but our ability to bounce back from life’s challenges is what will really determine if we become and remain happy. What if we could train ourselves to be more agile in our pursuit of joy? That's the idea behind "happiness agility".
So, what exactly is happiness agility? It's the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and find joy in a variety of situations. Rather than relying on a single source of happiness (such as our jobs, relationships, or even our hobbies), happiness agile persons are able to find contentment in a range of experiences. According Dr. Laura Schenck, a clinical psychologist and happiness agility advocate, "People who are happiness agile are like gymnasts. They're able to do all kinds of different flips and twists and land on their feet. They're not just relying on one trick to get them through." The research is telling; happiness agility is a powerful predictor of resilience and the ability to recover from difficult experiences. It is believed that people who are more happiness agile tend to have lower levels of anxiety, depression, and stress, and are better able to cope with challenges such as job loss, illness, relationship problems or even working in a hostile environment.
But how do you become more happiness agile? I have found that the most important key to cultivate a growth mindset, which involves believing that your abilities can be developed through hard work and dedication. This mindset allowed me to approach challenges with a sense of curiosity and a willingness to learn, rather than a fear of failure.
Another important strategy is practicing mindfulness. By staying present in the moment and observing my thoughts and emotions without judgment, I developed greater awareness of what brings me joy and what doesn't. This helped me in making more intentional choices about how I spend my time and energy
Here are some other helpful tips that I have found to be useful in cultivating my own happiness agility:
1. Practicing gratitude is a helpful strategy we often underestimate. Regularly taking time to focus on the things I am grateful for, helped to maintain a more positive outlook on life, even when things are tough. I have found that a simple task as admiring a blooming flower on my front porch, or listening to the birds chirping outside my window, would positively impact my outlook for the entire day.
2. Focus on what you can control. When faced with a difficult situation, I have found that it is important to focus on the things I can control rather than worrying about the things I cannot. After all being a person of faith, I am being reminded constantly being reminded to ‘fret not’. By focusing on taking positive action in areas where I have agency, I am able to maintain a greater sense of control and well-being.
3. Cultivate positive relationships. Having a strong social support networks can be a powerful buffer against stress and adversity. Make an effort to cultivate positive relationships with friends, family members, and colleagues, and seek out opportunities for social connection and support. I am not an extrovert, but I do find that my spirits are lifted when I am around the right people. After all, we are human beings together, each having his or her own role to play in this universally massive social network called life.
The bottom line is, happiness agility requires a willingness to step outside your comfort zone and try new things. Whether it's taking up a new hobby, exploring a new place, or meeting new people, exposing ourselves to new experiences can help us build resilience and adaptability. Writing this blog is part of my own journey towards happiness.
Of course, no one is happy all the time, and happiness agility doesn’t mean ignoring negative emotions or difficult situations. But by developing the skills to find joy in a variety of circumstances, we can build a more fulfilling and resilient life. So, whether you are feeling stuck in a rut or just looking for a new approach to happiness, consider cultivating your happiness agility. Who knows what kind of flips and twists you might be capable of?
By Shellon Samuels-White (Executive Director - Jamaica ASCD Affiliate; Emerging Leader 2022)