Angelina D’Agostino, my nonna

Happiness is not just a passing mood. Neither is it a constant state of euphoria that protects us from feeling sad in the face of trauma. Think of happiness as a journey down a narrow dirt pathway through the woods. Imagine that the vegetation is at its peak, and surrounding you is an artist’s palette of lime to emerald greens; above you a brushstroke of clear turquoise blue; below your feet the musky smell of rich earth and sprouts of fragrant wild flowers, scattered randomly along the way. You drink in the sound of birds singing and the breathe in the crisp, clean air. You are feeling content; you are feeling happy as you continue down the path. Suddenly in front of you slithers a reptile you know to be poisonous. You will probably not keep walking with a happy whistle on your lips as you walk over it and continue on. You will probably instead go into the fight or flight response as your body reacts and your mind decides quickly if you need to defend yourself or run the heck away. You may need a few minutes to recover after this, but you get over the scare successfully, and then the whole incident will take a back seat in your consciousness as get back to enjoying the treasures of the woods that you normally cherish.

Happiness works the same way. Even happy people (that is, people who are happy most of the time) deal with challenges and traumas just like the rest of us. And like the rest of us they have emotional ups and downs (I’m not talking about extremes)—because that is the nature of life. I guess if we were to define a “happy life”, most would say, that if we –over the long haul—can say we have more of an experience of emotional wellbeing than we do negative emotions.

The late psychology professor Michael W. Fordyce continues to be one of the most admired and well-respected authorities for his innovative work suggesting that happiness can be “learned.” Dr. Fordyce believed that if we emulate the characteristics of happy individuals, we could increase our own happiness. He generously and freely shared these principals among his colleagues, students, and anyone else who was interested.

Here are Fordyce’s 14 Fundamentals of Happiness Training

  1. Keep busy and be more active
  2. Spend more time socializing
  3. Be productive at meaningful work
  4. Get better organized and plan things out
  5. Stop worrying
  6. Lower your expectations and aspirations
  7. Develop positive, optimistic thinking
  8. Become present-oriented
  9. Work on a healthy personality
  10. Develop an outgoing, social personality
  11. Be yourself
  12. Eliminate negative feelings and problems
  13. Close relationships are the number one source of happiness
  14. Put happiness as your most important priority.

Let’s start a conversation! Do you currently follow any of Fordyce’s Happiness Fundamentals? Which ones? If not, which do you think you can reasonable fit into your lifestyle, and in what ways will you do that?

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Fordyce, Michael W. (1983). A Program to Increase Happiness: Further Studies. Journal of Counseling Psychology, (30)

Friedman, Harris J. (2013) The Legacy of a Pioneering Happiness Researcher: Michael W. Fordyce (December 14, 1944-January 24, 2011). J Happiness Studies, (14)363-366.


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