Q&A’s for Weighless Magazine,
Contribution by Joanna Kleovoulou, Clinical Psychologist and Director 5 February 2013

Qu – Define happiness:

The concept of happiness has been researched and philosophised for thousands of years. My personal and professional understanding of happiness is that it taps in to all areas of our existence: Spiritually it gives us a sense of inner peace and acceptance of what is in the present moment as well as being able to tap into opportunities and co-creating your existence; it is being in a state of gratitude for all that you are and what you have; and the need to be altruistic in making some sort of difference in our society; Mentally it is having optimistic and realistic thoughts; having goals to work towards; knowing what your strengths are and being proactive with the challenges in life; Relationally it is the ability to be connected with others; being engaged in the world, accessing support, and being able to give and receive in relationships; having compassion; Emotionally it is being able to have a sense of sustained well-being despite the challenges and stressors presented; Physiologically our bodies also indicate whether we are happy or not – our hormones, neurons, chemical make-up and brainwaves for example play a role in being happy. Martin Seligman scientifically studied the concept of happiness through the Theory of Positive Psychology. He describes happiness based on the pleasurable life, the engaged life and the meaningful life. The better each of these lives is lived, the happier the person will be.

Qu – I have heard that one should never look to others for happiness but within, but what does this look like in ‘real life’?

Happiness within is working and seeking it from inside ourselves rather than seeking it outside of ourselves; this gives us a far better chance of being in control of it than having to rely on outside sources to make us feel happy. People that have mastered being happy from within are able to know and understand that they are where they are meant to be and doing the best they can while being there; it is having a sense of calm and contentment. Happy people also understand that having a sense of security is false perception as there are constant threats to our sense of safety in the world, thus it is being happy despite all these threats. Happy people also know that they deserve to be happy no matter what they have done or where they come from. Happy people also enjoy the journey rather than waiting to be happy once they have reached their destination. Happy people are able to be thankful for who they are and what they have; and are able to help and seek help when needed.

Qu – What do you think happy people do differently – please expand:

The WHO predicts that by 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of death in the world, impacting nearly one-third of all adults. Happy people have developed a specific set of life skills over time that causes them to perceive life differently and to feel inspired and lifted. Happy people stay connected to their families, places of worship, and communities. These strong connections act as a buffer to depression and create strong, meaningful connections. They engage in activities that fit their strengths, values and lifestyle – staying healthy, having goals, having direction, and being connected to something higher and meaningful. They practice gratitude. It helps you cope with trauma and stress, increases self-esteem, and often helps dissolve negative emotion and being in a state of gratitude is a fairly strong correlate with life satisfaction. They have an optimistic thinking style. First, they focus their time and energy on where they have control. They know when to move on if certain strategies are not working or if they do not have control in a specific area. Happy people understand that while life has its challenges it will not last. Happy people are able to compartmentalise as they do not let a hardship in one area of their life affect the other areas. They are generally altruistic as they understand that acts of kindness helps them feel good about themselves, and helps others feel good about themselves too, causing positive feelings and increasing psychological and physical resilience. Happy people also encounter stressful life events, but they have developed successful coping strategies and are able to see the good that might come from challenging times.- renewed appreciation for life, recognising new paths for your life, enhanced personal strength, improved relationships with others, and spiritual growth.

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