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Kathy Marshack News

What 40 Years of Science Reveals About Happiness

Thursday, January 09, 2014

the three main factors that result in happinessAfter over thirty five years counseling clients and helping them discover what happiness means to them personally, I was interested to read a recent article in the New York Times on this subject. The president of the American Enterprise Institute, a public policy think tank in Washington, D.C., reported on what scientists have discovered about happiness after studying it for 40 years.

Scientists have determined that three major things impact happiness – our genes, events, and our values. Here's what the research shows:

Genetics: Researchers at the University of Minnesota have studied identical twins separated at birth and found that genetics is responsible for about 48.5% percent of our happiness.

Events: Measured to account for 40 percent of our happiness, the effect of events on our happiness is usually short-lived. Today we may be ecstatic about landing our dream job, but within a month or so that euphoria wears off.

Values: While the smallest percentage of our happiness is attributed to our values, this is something totally within our control. We get to choose what value we place on the basics – faith, family, community and meaningful work.

The article also went on to reveal that meaningful life and work isn’t successfully measured by the amount of money you have or what you buy. Mr. Brooks explains more, “Rewarding work is unbelievably important, and this is emphatically not about money. That’s what research suggests as well. Economists find that money makes truly poor people happier insofar as it relieves pressure from everyday life — getting enough to eat, having a place to live, taking your kid to the doctor. But scholars have found that once people reach a little beyond the average middle-class income level, even big financial gains don’t yield much, if any, increases in happiness.”

In order to be happy, you must know yourself first. This means becoming knowledgeable about the connections between your personal life, your family life and your work life. Understanding your personal family dynamics and how they interact with your career or business creates a more successful life balance.

This is especially true for family business owners, your personal life influences your business decisions, and vice versa. Therefore, it is well worth your while to become more knowledgeable about your personality style, your family values, your blind spots and how they shape your daily actions. Self-Assessment is a good place to start in reevaluating your attitude toward work and money. If you’re an entrepreneur you will find many self-assessment exercises, including Your Financial Plan in my book - Entrepreneurial Couples - Making it Work at Work and at Home.

If you need help discovering a more meaningful, and happy, work-life balance please contact my Portland Oregon/ Vancouver, Washington office and set up an appointment.

The Two Types of Happiness and How They Affect You

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

two types of happinessThroughout our lives we experience happiness to varying degrees, from being mildly pleased to being wildly ecstatic. A recently released study shows that the reason why we are happy is important.

A group of scientists have been studying the impact that positive emotion has on our physical and psychological well-being. They recently released their findings and the results are surprising. They found proof that the type of happiness you experience changes you at the cellular level.

What does it mean by “type of happiness”? In the study they classified happiness into two types: hedonic (pleasure from instant gratification) and eudaimonic (pleasure from working toward the greater good, a sense of meaning in life or purpose).

While both types of happiness have positive effects on a person, eudaimonic happiness does greater good for you on the cellular level. It tells your genes to produce a lower level of inflammatory proteins and more antiviral and antibody proteins. This has a good affect on your body.

If you have prolonged stress, your white blood cells make more pro-inflammatory proteins. In the short term, this is a defense against infection. But over time this inflammation can cause damage to healthy tissue. 

What does all of this mean? In part, it means that a person who strives to be happy by giving to others and living a meaningful life will be healthier than people who are focused on pleasing themselves. Not too surprising is it? But now we have scientific proof that it’s true.

There can be a number of reasons why a person doesn’t feel happy – emotional stress, family pressure, environmental toxins, biochemical/nutritional imbalances to mention a few. If you’d like to take a more proactive approach to finding meaning and satisfaction in you're life, you can work with a mental health professional to set meaningful goals. Contact my office and set up an appointment if you’re near my offices in Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington.

You can read more about this in an article on CNN, “Your Happiness Type Matters”.

If You Want to Be Happy Take a Risk

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

happy woman enjoying lifeWhat makes you happy? If you were to list 25 things that make you happy, what would they be? How many of your listed items would be things that make you uncomfortable? Normally, we tend to avoid what feels risky, preferring to stay in our comfort zones. Yet, that may not be the best way to stay happy. Here’s why…

In the Declaration of Independence, the founding fathers listed our Rights as “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”? The word pursuing involves obtaining something that you don’t have yet. We can pursue happiness by doing the things we know we like. But there is more to it than that. A recent article in Psychology Today, “What Happy People Do Differently”, makes this statement, “One of life's sharpest paradoxes is that the key to satisfaction is doing things that feel risky, uncomfortable, and occasionally bad.”

Does that surprise you that doing what is risky and uncomfortable contributes to our happiness? We all need to experience new things, overcome new challenges that take us outside of our comfort zones to grow emotionally and spiritually. We need to fuel our curiosity.

The article also lists the following four other unique habits that happy people have:

  • They have a balanced view of details, not taking things too personally or striving for perfection.
  • They celebrate others’ successes and build relationships with others who do the same.
  • They have psychological flexibility – they accept negative emotions as a signal that they need to examine and possibly change the situation they’re in.
  • They balance pleasure and purpose – they enjoy life but stay on track with long-range goals.

Happiness isn’t about always being on an emotional high. It comes when you combine it with “occasional sadness, a sense of purpose, playfulness, psychological flexibility, autonomy, mastery and belonging.” Rather than chasing happiness, perhaps the founding fathers should have said “and the pursuit of a life well-lived.”

Are there anxieties or chronic depression that prevent you from fully enjoying life and your relationships? Life is too precious to miss out on, so maybe it’s time to consult with a therapist who will work with you as you discover the best ways to keep your anxieties or depression under control. Are you near Portland Oregon or Vancouver, Washington? Contact my office to set up an appointment.

Learn how you can help yourself by checking out the tips on my website – Depression and Stress.

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