Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Staying Happy Through the Tough Stuff

Hey all, happy Wednesday and middle of the week.

I hope this finds you well!

My inspiration for this post comes as a result of starting a new book. It's called "Happier" and it's written by Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph. D. Mr. Ben-Shahar is a Harvard University professor that has taught a class on positive psychology since 2002 and this class is now the most popular and largest class on campus to date. People seem to be seeking a specific goal of happiness and contentment in their lives today.

The gist of the book is about finding fulfillment in the aspects of life that are most important (such as love, relationships, goal setting and meeting, non-material aspects) and pursuing these channels more to find greater personal happiness. I'm finding the book very interesting as he is already hitting home with a few of his fundamental ideas, for example: he has a Hamburger Model that he uses to explain personality types here in America and how we approach life and work. There are four types of hamburgers that that he explains that we as personality types choose (of which we may all have multiple aspects of within our personalities), the first being the Hedonist type of person, which lives by the ideal that they need to live in the now and seek gratification in the now. This person would ideally choose the tasty junk food hamburger with a quick gratification and a later detriment. The Second type being the Rat Race personality which chooses to find gratification in the future and finds detriment in the present. This person would ideally choose a vegetarian burger. The Third type being the Nihilist personality type. This person would ideally choose a tasteless, unhealthful burger that would provide no future or present benefit or pleasure. The last type being the Happiness personality type that would ideally choose the hamburger that would be as tasty as the first option (the unhealthful, tasty junk food burger) but as healthy as the vegetarian burger.

I find this model interesting because we all choose one or multiples of these personality aspects in how we approach life. I happen to be a "rat race, hedonist" type that teeter-totters between immediate gratification and future gratification. I'm learning through this book that being happy is more about being grateful for everything that we already have and to look at happiness as a currency that can never be too abundant. As I keep reading the book, I'll share more, but these ideals stood out to me and made me reflect on my own life and my own approach to the life/work combo.

One of the exercises in the book that he suggests is writing down in a journal what I'm grateful for every night. He mentions that his students who have done this in his class experience a greater level of happiness in their life. I can definitely see the logic in this and we, as Americans in general, sometimes fail to see the good in our lives and be content with what we have. We are a consumer society and we are constantly seeking new stimuli. I've been trying to get myself out of this pattern of behavior for the last few years, and this book is helping me to understand why and how I should do this.

Feel free to check out the book at Amazon here or at your local library like I did. Hope you enjoy it too.

Have a great week!

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