The Pursuit of Contentment and Happiness
Terry Zick, M.A.
Am I in control of my contentment and my happiness? I am happy to say that research, mental health professionals and many individuals who study human nature say — absolutely yes! So many books have been written on the topic of happiness — all empowering me to know that there are lots of strategies and viewpoints to help me to be more contented.
Studies show that people who have wealth are not necessarily happier, and if they become happy, don’t always stay happy — money itself doesn’t make us happy. Likewise, people with the most education are not necessarily happier. Students who make high grades aren’t happier than those with low grades. No matter what aspect of life we face, what makes us happy is the type of thoughts we have. What contributes to happiness is the choice we make with our thoughts. Optimistic people (those with positive outlooks) are happier than pessimists (those with negative outlooks).
Many people describe happiness as contentment. Contented people tend to accept things as they are, and have a sense of mental or emotional satisfaction. Some might call happiness and contentment simply peace of mind. Are we born genetically wired to be happy or unhappy? To some degree we are born with a predisposition or a possible set point toward happiness or unhappiness. According to some studies, our happiness level depends 50% on our genetics, 10% on circumstances, and 40% on our intentional activities. Intentional activities are 1) the intention of how I am going to choose to think and patterns of thought (cognitive), and 2) how I am going to choose to respond, or act, or spend time “being” (behavioral). These thought patterns for happiness come from a variety of feeling-good strategies including social, spiritual, and physical — in addition to the cognitive and behavioral.