Secrets of Happiness: 4 Tips for a Healthy Emotional Life

Our Environment Does Not Make Us Happy - We Do!

8 children on the same ride - all showing different feelings
8 children on the same ride - all showing different feelings | Source

Happiness is available within. We can return to joy in seconds.

Can We Choose Happiness?

Many people think that our feelings are a result of what happens to us.

That is simply not true, unless we believe it. Our feelings do respond to what happens to us, but they arise within us, and we can learn to influence and even direct them.

The proof is in the photo above. I took all these shots in under three minutes - they are all of children of about the same age riding the same fairground ride. Look at their expressions! You will see eight different emotions as eight different children - eight unique human beings - respond to the same experience.

You are a unique human being. You don't have to respond in typical ways, or follow old patterns. You can choose happiness.

A Girl With a Broken Leg

How Sad! She has a broken leg.
How Sad! She has a broken leg. | Source

A Few Seconds Later, She's Happy

Broken leg forgotten.
Broken leg forgotten. | Source

Seconds Later, She's Thoughtful

Seconds later, her happiness is gone, and she's pensive. Do your emotions flow this easily? Can you direct them?
Seconds later, her happiness is gone, and she's pensive. Do your emotions flow this easily? Can you direct them? | Source

Now Is the Time to Be Happy

Think about it: Whatever we feel, we’re feeling it right now. Last night, my brother, my wife and I were sharing stories of my mother. It was her birthday, but she passed away eight years ago. Now, I felt sad when she died. And I feel happy at birthday parties. How do I feel on the birthday of someone who has died? Both sad and happy, and the feelings change from one to the other very fast. At least, that’s what I felt as the three of us shared fond memories of our mother.

Earlier the same day, I saw this young girl with the purple cast on her leg. She was even sadder than you see in this picture. She was so low, I couldn’t imagine what would cheer her up. I went to get my camera and came right back, and look how happy she was! And, in fact, she changed from happy to sad again in under ten seconds. Then, in less than ten seconds, she’d changed from laughing to thoughtful.

The Four Secrets of Happiness

The little girl with the purple cast shows us the first two of our 4 secrets to happiness. Here they all are:

  1. It takes only a few seconds to become happy.
  2. It takes only a few seconds to become sad, anxious, angry, or miserable again.
  3. Kids can change their feelings in seconds.
  4. As adults, we forget how to change our feelings that fast – but we can re-lean the art of choosing happiness!

It Takes Only a Few Seconds to Become Happy

If we’re feeling sad or low, we can become happy in about 30 seconds. It takes that long for our entire hormonal system to shift, flooding us with endorphins, and making us feel great. And you don’t need cocaine, alcohol, or happy pills to do it.

All it takes is a genuine smile and a happy thought or memory.

The problem is that the smile has to be genuine. To learn about the dangers of faking happiness or pushing yourself to be happy, please read this article about how gratitude and happiness are not the same as positive thinking.

I should make a quick note – if you’re really angry or upset or scared, it can take a bit longer to relax – 15 minutes for women, and 20 minutes for men. But, in any case, happiness is only half an hour away – or less!

Placid Now, Killer in a Second!

Smiling, but all those teeth! An alligator can go from resting deeply in the sun to ripping out your guts in a fraction of a second. That's the fear / attack response at work.
Smiling, but all those teeth! An alligator can go from resting deeply in the sun to ripping out your guts in a fraction of a second. That's the fear / attack response at work. | Source

It takes only a few seconds to become sad, anxious, angry, or miserable again

And, of course, the moment our attention shifts, our mood changes. Someone steps on our toe. We miss the elevator. We find out we locked our keys in the car. We get a text from the stalker geek we thought we dumped. Boom! We’re down in the dumps.

The hormonal shift to any kind of misery takes the same 30 seconds that the hormonal shift to joy does. And the shift to fear or anger is even faster. That’s a survival skill that’s built into us. We can shift to fight or flight almost instantly. In fact, we can get angry almost as fast as this alligator – lazing in the sun right now – can. He may be getting some shut-eye, but he’s a fraction of a second away from eating you or me for lunch!

It takes a bit longer to climb out anger or fear than it does to fall into it. But we can.

Kids Can Change Their Feelings in Seconds

Kids, cats, dogs (and all other mammals, too) can change their mood in seconds. That’s the way any animal who is living experientially is, just naturally. Our feelings flow within seconds of our experience. Like the girl in the photo, any child can be bored one moment, and grinning the next.

If you don’t believe me, try picking up a cat who doesn’t want to be picked up. But put on some body armor first!

As a kid, even you could do that.

As a kid, I could too, I guess. But most of my childhood memories are pretty miserable.

As kids, we naturally live in the moment.

Growing up means losing that skill. We learn, instead, how to stuff our feelings. How to not know how we feel. How to fake a feeling. How to get stuck in an attitude or a memory and stay miserable or frustrated or anxious or depressed.

The first person who taught me about happiness said that the difference between a child and an adult is that as children, we know when we are pretending to be unhappy. The day we forget we are pretending, we become adults.

As Adults, We've Forgotten How to Change Our Feelings Fast

As adults, we forget how to change our feelings that fast – but we can re-lean the art of choosing happiness!

So being an adult means that we think we can’t change our feelings fast. And we’re stuck in those thoughts.

I do a lot of my coaching by taking walks through my neighborhood and talking as we walk. It keeps things flowing. I was doing this once, and my client got lost in her personal misery. It was a beautiful Florida day. I asked her to stop and tell me what she saw. She looked up and said, “Right here! In front of us! A foreclosed house! Think of those people who lost their homes.” She almost started to cry. There she was, lost in her misery, which was all about money.

I laughed. Gently, but I laughed. I tried again to help her see the blue sky, the rising sun, the scattering of puffy clouds. I asked her to feel the wind, but she just couldn’t do it. She was too committed to her misery.

Jump out of your misery! You can. It takes practice, but happiness can, once again, become a state we create, just as it was when we were children. And believe me - I know from experience - that it's a lot easier to get out of debt - or to become healthy - if we're happy while we are doing it! Misery and stress lead to bad decisions, more problems in life, and poorer health. Happiness brings clarity and, in clarity, we make good decisions and have the energy to make health and prosperity happen.

In a word, starting with happiness, we thrive!

Make Yourself Happy - Right Now!

You can use a beautiful photo like this one to relax and become happy in minutes. Just try!
You can use a beautiful photo like this one to relax and become happy in minutes. Just try! | Source

Try Right Now!

Please try this experiment. You can use the photo of the beautiful sunrise you see above. It will all take less than three minutes.

Before you start, take a moment to note how you are feeling. How tense or relaxed are you? What feelings are up?

Stop and close your eyes. Let go of everything. Straighten your back just a bit. Don't sit ramrod straight, just relax and breathe. Again, let go of whatever is bugging you. Then open your eyes and look at the picture.

Let your eyes, heart, and mind wander into the picture. Find things you like. Did you notice the birds?

After a minute or two, just ask yourself: How am I feeling now?

It would be great if you would put your answer into the poll below. Sharing your experience could help a lot of people.

Did You Become Happy?

If you tried the experiment, please share:

See results without voting

The Times it Takes to Change a Feeling

From
To
In
Sad
Happy
30 seconds
Happy
Sad or Anxious
30 seconds
Anxious
Angry or Scared
1 second
Angry
Relaxed
15 - 20 minutes
Scared
Relaxed
15 - 20 minutes
Anxious
Angry or Scared
1 second

Master of Peace and Joy

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh has taught over a million people how to be happy.
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh has taught over a million people how to be happy. | Source

How Far Can We Go?

There’s no question we can learn to make the shift into happiness simply by relaxing, breathing, straightening up, and focusing on something beautiful or wonderful. And that thing can be here and now, or it can be a memory. Or, if we loosen up a bit, we just laugh at the absurdity of life.

You might be thinking that I’m just talking about getting rid of normal stress. And I am talking about getting rid of normal stress. But choosing happiness goes far deeper than that. Consider these situations:

  • For the last eight years, I’ve suffered severe pain most days of the week. And I’ve learned to stay happy. Now, that happiness is turning into health.
  • My wife has rheumatoid arthritis. But she is learning to get happy. She even dreams of dancing – and will be starting soon.
  • One of my mentors, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, wrote a beautiful poem about how he had to walk a mile in the rain, carrying the body of his brother, who had been killed in the war, just to bury his brother's body. But this man knows how to do walking meditation. He felt sadness over his brother. But he also enjoyed the beautiful dripping of the rain, and was aware when one small yellow flower poked it’s face up out of the mud. The flower, he felt, deserved as much joy from him as his brother called for grief.

Victor Frankl

Victor Frankl survived the Nazi concentration camps and went on to teach people how to create meaning and happiness in our lives - no matter what happens to us.
Victor Frankl survived the Nazi concentration camps and went on to teach people how to create meaning and happiness in our lives - no matter what happens to us. | Source
  • Victor Frankl, the great psychologist, survived the Nazi concentration camps. He understood the importance of focusing our attention. He saw that, when people in dire circumstances give up hope, they die. He was so strongly disciplined in his mind that, many years later, a child of a holocaust survivor asked him how long it took for him to get over his anger at the Nazis for imprisoning him and killing his entire family. He replied, “My dear, I never was angry.”

I really hope you never have to learn how to be happy in excruciating pain, with a disabling illness, burying a loved one, or trapped in prison. But know that you can do it, just as we have. Ultimately, our ability to be happy is unlimited.

But don’t worry about that for now. Just practice, maybe three times a day, loosening up and feeling the joy!

Have You Learned How to Be Happy - Fast?

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Comments 26 comments

denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

How true! Our thoughts determine our feelings, and we can change them at any time. Changing what we focus on allows us to change the chemicals that are flowing into our brains. This principle has been a life saver for me. I was able to go off of the mental health medications I was taking for anxiety and depression, and live a much healthier existence.


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Hi Denise - Yes! Your story illustrates just how powerful the choice of choosing our feelings can be!


Emanate Presence profile image

Emanate Presence 3 years ago from the Head to the Heart

Excellent hub, Sid. Your photos are so illustrative. The stories and points make a lot of good sense. It is a well informed and attractively presented article. Voted Up, Useful and Interesting!


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Thanks, Emanate! You're a great heart and a fine writer, and your appreciation means a lot to me. Let's keep sharing!


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

A brilliant hub and thanks for sharing.

Eddy.


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Thanks, Eddy. May you be happier and happier all year.


promaine profile image

promaine 3 years ago from New York

A very thoughtful hub, chock-full of really useful information and techniques. Even if we don't switch to happiness, we do not need to remain 'stuck' in an emotion. I've come across a lot of people and even some therapists who talk about emotions as something that you just experience, and don't do anything about. You seem to be arguing the opposite, using your own experience and figures like Victor Frankl and Thich Nhat Hanh. Do this think this idea (of just passively experiencing or "being with" emotions) is damaging? What about the opposite, of when people tell you, 'turn that frown upside down'?


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Thanks for a provocative question. I believe that, fundamentally, any human being can direct, but cannot completely control, his or her emotions. We direct our emotions by genuinely focusing our attention on experiences that create certain emotions. This is not recognized by Western psychology, where it is assumed (without testing) that emotions are experiences that happen to us. On the other hand, it is dangerous to go too far and believe "Oh, I can just change how I feel." That is the false path of the Power of Positive Thinking. It works for a while, but then the repressed feelings backfire. O.J. Simpson, the poster-boy of the Power of Positive Thinking, is a stellar example of how one can become great by forcing emotions, only to have it all blow up and ruin many lives later.


cherrycrime26 profile image

cherrycrime26 3 years ago from NY, Now Living in Atlanta Ga

Kids can change there emotions very quickly, I Am working on this daily, every time a negative thought creeps in, I think of things from my past that make smile :) great hub!


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Yes! Don't let a negative thought take your smile away. Not even for one breath!


PeggyLou profile image

PeggyLou 3 years ago from Mid-Atlantic States US

This Hub is wonderful. It not only reinforced what I've learned by experience over time, you have some terrific new information to me about the actual time it takes to change your emotions. I have never heard that, and it is very helpful to know. Thank you for your contributions, Sid.


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

You're welcome. Now let's all put this knowledge and wisdom into good use and create a happy life!


vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 3 years ago from Peru, South America

This is very inspirational. It's true that our feelings can shift quickly and we need to be in command of whether we meditate on happy or sad memories. The sunset photo was an interesting experiment. It did relax me, although sunsets tend to make me feel nostalgic instead of happy. I look forward to more of your fascinating Hubs. Thanks!


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Thank you, Vespa. You are beautifully fine-tuned. But I live on the Atlantic coast of Florida - and the photo is a sunrise. Look at it again, knowing it is a sunrise. Does that change the feeling.


vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 3 years ago from Peru, South America

Well, it does say sunrise, doesn't it? I guess my anticipation colored my viewpoint. Yes, it does change the feeling...the beginning of a beautiful new day. I love it!


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Vespa, thanks for illustrating, right here, so beautifully, how a change of thought can lead to an immediate change of feeling.


Braxton Boyer profile image

Braxton Boyer 3 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

Wonderful entry, Sid. It is amazing how we can take the ordinary things that we notice everyday, like sunrises, and allow them to influence our attitudes for the better. Gifts, to be sure.


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Thank you Braxton. I'm glad we've met. Let's keep sharing the joy.


Ingenira profile image

Ingenira 3 years ago

SidKemp, a very nicely-written hub on how to lift up one's mood. Yes, if we can count our blessings more often, we can be happier. Voted up, twitted and shared. (And linked to hub.)


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Thanks, Ingenira. Your support helps many people be happy!


Born2care2001 profile image

Born2care2001 3 years ago from Asheville NC

Hi Sid!

I took your recommendation today and I'm glad I did. Your well thought out and presented hub confirms what I have been "preaching" for some time now. The quality of our lives is directly proportionate to our understanding that we always, always have a choice as to how to respond in any circumstance.

"Just practice" is often easier said than done but it truly is one of the keys to success for any area of improvement.

I am particularly grateful for your references to Dr. Frankl and Thich Nhat Hanh both of whom I admire greatly.

I'll be back to read more soon! Thank you for being who you are and for doing what you do!

Humbly,

Bruce


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Thanks, Bruce. Your appreciation "thank you for being who you are and doing what you do" is a real boost right now. Even more, your testimonial that *this stuff works* is appreciated, as it will encourage many others to follow our example and try this out.


Born2care2001 profile image

Born2care2001 3 years ago from Asheville NC

Hey Sid!

You are most welcome. I applaud those who get beyond themselves, are open to new ideas and have the capacity and will to serve others before themselves.

As we both know, this only works when the individual using it dedicates themselves to change and is willing to be aware enough to know that what they get may be far better than what they expected.

Keeping my mind and heart open,

Bruce


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Thank you, friend, for the reminder of why we are here. Although I can choose to be happy anytime, you sure make it easier!


brakel2 profile image

brakel2 3 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Thank you Sid for sharing this hub about happiness. You are so right. A phone call from a loved one makes us happy in 5 seconds. It is a matter of the mind. When we get older, our bodies change, and we must work a little harder to overcome the sad times. Your writing, as usual, is full of inspiration . We do have pain, but we can psyche ourselves into forgetting. Hope things are going well for you. I haven't noticed you in my feed lately. You must be a busy person these days.. Take care. Audrey


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) Author

Thanks, Audrey, you're right on target. Also, as we mature, we can do for ourselves what that phone call from a friend can do. Using our awareness of what brings us joy, we can call for help, or meditate, or take time in nature, or enjoy breathing and being in our bodies to bring fort that joy. We are best off not forgetting our suffering: That would be repression. Instead, we acknowledge it, giving it bare attention. And we give lots of attention to sources of health and joy.

After a year of having HubPages be the center of my work, I'm branching out. And I like to focus on a new launch 100%. But I'll be back soon, balancing several things at once.

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