Two centuries ago, the United States was founded on the ideal that the pursuit of happiness is a human right. The Statue of Liberty with its torch held high perhaps best symbolizes this enduring aspiration for those seeking the American Dream, even now during a global economic crisis. In The How of Happiness, Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky explores the relation between intentional activity and happiness. Research shows there are simple and proven ongoing ways to enhance happiness. These include counting one’s blessings, performing kind acts, and seeing negative situations in a positive light. Circumstantial happiness in contrast is dependent on external factors, which often we have no direct control over as recent events sadly show.
The idea of intentional happiness is similar to the ‘broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions’ first formulated by Dr. Barbara Fredrickson in 1998. This holds that positive emotions and intentions help broaden awareness. And this helps encourage new exploration, creativity, and social bonds. Positive emotions are seen as expansive and inclusive. Negative emotions are linked directly to narrow survival-oriented behaviours such as flight or fight.