A new report to be published in the July issue of Perspectives in Psychological Science and reported on LiveScience.com shows that the world is becoming a happier place. The study measured happiness over a 17-year period in 52 countries around the world.
350,000 participants answered two questions:
- “Taking all things together, would you say you are very happy, rather happy, not very happy, not at all happy?”
- “All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days?”
Scores rose in 40 countries and fell in 12 during a period spanning from 1981 to 2007. Denmark ranked as the happiest country with Zimbabwe bringing up the rear. The United States ranked 16th in the survey.
A recent Pew Research survey showed that American baby boomers (ages 44-62) were markedly less happy than other Americans. The report cites pressures in their current lives and worries about retirement as the primary concerns.
So is there a process to improve your outlook and find more happiness?
Your Thought Filter is the Key to Happiness
The following diagram shows how life’s raw materials (inputs) become our experience of life. Your thoughts are the critical crossroads where the life you experience is determined. Your thoughts are the filter for your experiences.
- Inputs – we all receive inputs every day. Inputs are the raw material we have to work with in our lives. They are not necessarily good or bad. We receive information, we are exposed to events, we live in circumstances. We can take some steps to control the inputs or make them more positive. However, we are going to have inputs and some of them are beyond our control.
- Thoughts – your thoughts are the critical crossroad where the life your experience is determined. Your thoughts filter your experiences converting them into positive or negative feelings and words. You have three choices on how to filter information at the thought level:
- Monitor and adjust your thoughts about the inputs (empowered/mindful approach).
- Choose auto-pilot approach where you allow inputs to pass through and become feelings, words, actions, and your life without much thought (mindless approach).
- Look to others for answers approach is the method where you rely on others to explain your inputs and give meaning to them (disempowered approach).
- Feelings/Words – feelings and words are the outputs of the thought filter. They create the energy that turns into action or even inaction your life. Your feelings and your words are driven by the thinking that is filtering your inputs. When you have created a positive grounding for them they generate positive, motivated action that creates success and fulfillment in life. When you have created a negative grounding with your thought filter you generate motivation for inaction, negative action, or destructive behavior.
- Actions – actions/inactions create results in the world. Actions are movement. They can be positive or negative and they create results in the world. The results that you receive from your actions/inactions create the life you experience. However, these actions were largely decided at the thought stage of the process.
- Experience of Life – life experience is the habit of the results created through this process. Over time, it solifies into belief and expectations about what is possible or impossible for you. Success, as they say, breeds success. That’s because success came from successful thoughts, feelings, words, and actions. Failure breeds failure. People are failures because they are incapable or unskilled, but because they have not mastered or understood this process.
The Boomers who are unhappy in this survey are letting the inputs (many objectively negative) create their life experiences. They are not empowering themselves using their thought filter.
What does all this mean? It means that if you can monitor and adjust your thinking about the world and keep it focused on a positive way forward you can create the life you want. Not a perfect life, but an improved life.
There are many techniques for monitoring and adjustmenting your thinking – focused prayer and meditation, quiet thinking, affirmations, and others. Use whatever tools that work for you, but changing your thoughts changes your life.