The Study of Happiness: Why It’s More Important than Ever
We have been made aware of how COVID-19 can affect us physically if it directly affects us, but not all of us have been made aware of the psychological toll of this outbreak, whether we have been directly affected by it or not. Surveys done by various organizations, from Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), to the human resources firm Morneau Shepell, reveal that our emotional and psychological well-beings have been strained due to the virus, especially now that we have hit the seven-month mark. The Angus Reid Institute also indicated that feelings of desolation and social isolation have increased from 23 percent last year to 33 percent this year.
These feelings of fear, anxiety, loneliness, frustration, grief, and irritability are all normal responses to a pandemic according to well-known psychiatrist Dr. Allen Frances, a professor emeritus and former chair of the department of psychiatry at Duke University. While we should all allow ourselves time to connect with these feelings and heal, we should not let them overcome us. Happiness may be elusive these days, but it’s still attainable. And the pursuit of happiness has become all the more important these days. Fortunately, there are numerous scientists and researchers helping us to navigate the road to happiness.
Positive Psychology studies
You’ve probably heard this term thrown a lot these days, and it’s actually not a new concept. Christopher Peterson, believed to be one of the founding fathers of positive psychology, sums it up best by describing it as a scientific approach to studying human thoughts, feelings, and behavior, with a focus on strengths instead of weaknesses, building the good in life instead of repairing the bad. Peterson was the author of two prodigious books that helped to further strengthen the approach: “A Primer In Positive Psychology” and “Character Virtues and Strengths,” which he co-wrote with Martin Seligman.
Another pioneer in the science of happiness is Tal Ben-Shahar, who teaches a course on Positive Psychology at Harvard University, where it has become one of the most popular courses of all time.
There’s also a peer-reviewed academic journal called the Journal of Happiness Studies which has been in circulation since the year 2000 and still receives high praise in scholarly circles.
What’s great about being happy anyway?
Why the obsession with happiness? Well, there are several reasons, and probably on top of the list during these times is the benefits of happiness to one’s health. A Carnegie Mellon University study found that people who are happy are less likely to catch common illnesses like colds, while those who are unhappy are likely to complain about having sickness symptoms. In addition, happy people tend to live longer.
What can we do?
Happiness does not happen overnight, but it is something we all can work on. According to an article in the Atlantic, there are tools to being happy and fulfilled and all we need to do is to utilize these. To sum it up, we have to realize that we are in control of our own happiness and of building a life. It’s all a matter of finding meaning and purpose and knowing your needs from your wants and how you define satisfaction.
Happiness is an achievable thing, but perhaps there was truth to Nathaniel Hawthorne when he wrote that “Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”