We all want to be happy. But what does this really mean? What is this elusive thing we’re all striving for – and will that new jacket or partner really make us happy? Ingerlise Svaleng reports how evidence-based positive psychology can help us move from languishing to flourishing.
“Happiness is about living a full, rich and meaningful life – the kind of life we’d like our kids to live,” says coaching psychologist Dr Anthony Grant, who appeared on the recent ABC TV series Making Australia Happy.
The problem is many of us don’t actually know what makes us happy. Often when we think of happiness, we think of the instant satisfaction we feel when we receive good news or buy a new pair of shoes. But happiness is much more than this!
In the science of positive psychology, happiness consists of two different factors: psychological wellbeing or how much meaning and engagement you have in your life, and subjective wellbeing, which is how you think about the world and feel about yourself.
Be in charge of your own happiness
Did you know that while genetics and life circumstances play an important role in determining how happy you are, 40 per cent of your happiness is within your personal control? So while you can’t change the cards you were dealt in life, you can change how you deal with them!
“We have a significant influence on how happy we are – the choices we make every day determine our happiness,” says Dr Grant.
The trick is to work out what means the most to you and live your life accordingly. And while our values differ, the science of positive psychology has made it possible to know which activities are almost guaranteed to increase your happiness.
Volunteering changed our lives
Once upon a time, two young cousins from opposite sides of the world splashed playfully together in a pool... Many years later, they reunited and a compassionate venture changed the course of their lives – and others – forever.
After the devastating tsunami that hit South-East Asia in 2004, cousins Hayley Maynard and Jess Brown volunteered to travel to Sri Lanka to help rebuild a small fishing village called Talalla Bay.
“In the eight months we spent rebuilding the village we forged a strong relationship with the community, and when we left, we realised there was more we could do to help,” says Jess.
The cousins could not forget about the amazing people, vibrant landscapes, mountains, palms, coastlines and the wonderful chaos of Sri Lanka’s famous Pettah Market. In fact, these lasting impressions inspired them to start their own ethically conscious fashion label.
Known for its unique prints and quirky style, KissinCussin started with a small production facility in Talalla Bay, employing three local women to make a small range of dresses. As demand for the label increased, the girls expanded into another village, providing livelihood support for even more women.
What’s more, their fabrics are hand printed and sourced in Rajasthan, India in line with their philosophy of supporting smaller cottage industries. The label is founded on a strong ethical outlook and the work that Jess and Hayley do in Talalla Bay and other communities is as much a part of KissinCussin as the clothing.
As for their own happiness? “We work hard,” says Hayley, “but whenever we visit the communities and see how much our small idea means to people, it’s all worth it.”