Loves me some tap dancing penguins! Mambo makes a girl happy for sure! I own this movie and when I am feeling blue all I have to do is what a little Mambo and I’m all smiles from ear to ear. So bear with me here as I continue to deepen our discussion on
my fav topic of the moment…..happiness. In my post The Happiness Advantage. I discussed the field of positive psychology. I am in love with this topic because it is a field of psychology that was created to treat the “the worried well. Yup you guessed it right, those of us that are crazy, neurotic and out of control living a life that is serving someone but not us. Its focus is on making the general public happier. HALLELUJAH! someone cares about us common folk! What Martin Seligman, founder of positive psychology,talks about is not just the giggles that come from watching penguins dance but honest to goodness lasting happiness. Seilgman has a great Ted talk Seligman on the State of Psychology He talks about how there are three forms of happiness. First he details “The Pleasant Life” which is about getting as much pleasure as you can. It is totally associated with positive emotions. The problems with the pleasant life is that it becomes habitual and overtime not valuable. It can incorporate using mindfulness skills to feel more pleasure but ultimately it is short lived. The next form of happiness is “The Good Life” which is about living life fully in an engaged way with family, friends, and a career. Living the good life is all about living in flow. Flow is different from pleasure as it is all about being totally absorbed in the present moment so much that all feeling as well as time and space go away. Just like when a dancer is dancing. It’s them and the music and nothing else. The third type of happiness is “The Meaningful Life” which about knowing your strengths and using them to serve a higher source. So using your skills to help out humanity. The feeling of fun is fleeting but the feeling from doing something good for someone else lasts forever. Seligman states that The Pleasant Life does not provide any lasting happiness unless it is coupled with The Good Life and the Meaningful life. Hmmm this provides for some deep thoughts.
What Seligman seems to be saying is that the way Americans live….acting as though happiness is in material goods, money, status, ego is backwards. Well that’s no surprise, we know this right? Well at least we figure it out eventually. Some turn their noses up at the suggestion that happiness arises from the external and others chase the material world like the Road Runner only to eventually fall off that cliff, crashing and burning. They may possibly end up dragging themselves to a therapist’s office where they will spend many hours discussing how they got here. We know in our hearts that things do not bring happiness but we are so conditioned towards this that we do it anyway. It’s the ole “keeping up with the Jones” or “wanting to live the life we have become accustomed to.” Somehow thinking that if we make more we will be happier but like the rap song goes “Mo Money, Mo Problems.” Analyzing how we got here may help to some degree but that analysis is paralysis if we don’t work on how to improve our life right here right now. We all have our story, but how do we find the strength in the story rather than as Seligman talks about, the victimization and pathologizing. Merely relieving the misery is not enough, for me anyway. I am more interested in how we can find true happiness.
So how do we make shifts that bring us closer to home….closer to living a life that is good and meaningful? Well that seems to be a personal journey. I found that the further I got away from center the angrier I became. Eventually I was so miserable that I became open to any suggestions which is how I got here. There were a lot of new things that came into my life to help me along the way. But in watching Mambo last night, I was reminded of a love, a passion, that once made my life more than meaningful. It made it amazing. That was dance, in particular tap dancing. I took jazz and tap from the age of thee until nineteen. I LOVED tap dancing. I still love it but I haven’t done it since my late teens (well that’s not totally true, I used to perform for my former roommate Antonietta on occasion:) Tap dancing was not just the pleasant life for me though, it brought in the good life and meaningful life because it included total absorption and community. It wasn’t just dance I loved but performing and being a part of a community. I am currently re-reading the Dali Lama’s book “The Art of Happiness” and in the beginning the author, Howard Cutler, MD talks about how His Holiness speaks of happiness as something that is not just for the individual but for the collective. This is in line with Seligman’s idea that in order for happiness to be lasting it must include an some amount of altruistic deeds. We can not go after enlightenment, happiness, joy whatever you want to call it, just simply for ourselves we must share it with others. True happiness comes from simple random acts of kindness towards others. Cutler shares that happy people are more apt to be open and willing to do things for others unexpectedly and without needing anything in return. When your well is full, you have an overflow to share with others.
For today, how will you fill your well until the cup runneth over? What pleasurable activity or action you engage in that makes you so damn happy you just have to share it with others? For me, I think I will let the day unfold and see where it takes me. It is possible that it may take me to a dance shop to get me some tap shoes! Hope you have a truly happy and joyful day!