Why be happy?

This may seem like an odd question, after all who doesn't want to be happy, and the pursuit of happiness is even guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. However, happiness is often seen as superficial, "don't worry be happy," implies ignoring the serious problems of life. But what if being happy isn't just an escape from problems but actually an important factor in dealing with problems? Researchers who have studied happiness are showing that happiness doesn't just feel good, but is also important in making us better people.

Being unhappy is not necessarily bad for us. Fears and anxieties help us focus us on potential threats to our well being. Sadness alerts us to losses that threaten our security. Anger mobilizes us to deal with potential dangers. Unfortunately, too often we see threats where there aren't any, and magnify dangers in ways that cause us to overreact- think road rage. What's more, negative feelings tend to narrow our perspective and make us focus in on things that are wrong, promoting further negative feelings. Again, this isn't all bad, we need to prepare for and be able to handle threats and dangers. But life isn't only about avoiding problems. There is much more to life, and that's where happiness and positive feelings come in.

Positive feelings have many desirable benefits. They make us feel good and bring out best of us. Positive feelings promote taking on challenges, and make us better at learning from the challenges we face. Positive feelings point us to the things in life that are truly worthwhile. When we are feeling positive we want to connect more with other people and we can better handle our relationships. Having positive feelings makes us better citizens, we are more accepting of other people, we see purpose and meaning in our communities, and we are more likely to actively contribute to our society.

Barbara Fredrickson Ph.D., author of Positivity, states that positive emotions help us broaden and build our psychological resources. They are signs of flourishing, and they promote flourishing in the present and over time. Having positive feelings are not just a goal in themselves, but help us achieve psychological growth and well-being.

My goal for this blog is give information, based on scientific research, on the value of having good feelings, on what we know about being happier and more satisfied in life, and how this can enhance our health, our personal capacities, our relationships, our work and our community.

Until next time, be happy, it's good for you!