Bobby McFerrin’s 1988 hit “Don’t Worry Be Happy,” with its simple melody and words, was easy to hum and remember. However, several decades later, the song’s message alludes many of us.
The 2020s has been one of the most stressful decades in history. A CNN headline in February summed up the state of the U.S. “American happiness hits record lows.” Americans are not pleased with what is going on in their daily lives, the state of our nation and the state of our politics. According to CNN, Gallup has been asking Americans how they are feeling for the past two decades. This year, just 38 percent say they’re satisfied. That number is down from 48 percent in 2020 and 41 percent in 2021.
Really you say? Isn’t it all woo woo stuff and a waste of time and money trying to change the way you feel? Not according to the Wall Street Journal. The paper published an article that reported that because keeping workers satisfied is tough these days, companies are putting executives in charge of employees’ happiness. “It’s a job title that prompts smirks and questions: Chief Happiness Officer (CHO).”
Most happiness coaches would not stress acquiring “things” to make you happy. Instead of looking outside yourself try focusing inward. Trust your intuition, said Mary Frances Daly, who is a happiness coach in Washington, DC.
The serious emotional, mental, spiritual and physical repercussions of not being happy were enough to cause her to shift her area of concentration from mindset coaching to happiness coaching. “I was in a contentious divorce. I had a history of six consecutive miscarriages, was dealing with an out-of-control son and had a father sick with Alzheimer’s who eventually died.” She wanted to get happy and help others change their perspective as well.
“Happiness is not about being happy all the time,” said Daly. “It’s about accepting your feelings and feeling them. It’s not toxic positivity. It’s learning how to sit with your feelings then let them go.”
Daly studied at the University of Pennsylvania where she received a certification in positive psychology. She also completed neuroscience courses under Rick Hansen and other positive psychology classes at University of Michigan, Yale, University of California in San Diego and Stanford. She completed a master class certification with Gabby Bernstein, author of Happy Days, a New York Times Bestseller. Because Daly has a science background (an undergraduate degree in chemistry and biology) she loves how the study of happiness is data driven. She noted scientific ways to up happiness in 30 days proven by case studies. Daly said a consistent practice for 30 days of gratitude or appreciation and/or meditation can rewire your brain.
The connection between happiness and health has been studied and proven. Happiness lowers your risk for cardiovascular disease, lowers blood pressure, enables better sleep, improves diet and reduces stress. “The real casualty of COVID is happiness,” Daly said. “Fear and happiness cannot co-exist.
If you google how to be happy or search on Amazon for books about happiness you will find scores of articles and publications on the topic. One of the more popular authors, Gretchen Reuben, who wrote several books about happiness including The Happiness Project, posts daily a list of five things that make her happy. A common belief is that moving or acquiring money can boost your spirits. Although evidence shows either of those actions may help you feel better temporarily, Reuben found ways to improve your happiness, without relocating or making millions.
Some Tips on Getting Happy
A happiness coach is a professional who helps others evolve their lives and teaches them how to work towards achieving happiness. “I work with people who are ready to make a change,” said Daly. “I ask for a six-month commitment because it takes that long to rewire your brain.” She starts with a 30-minutes call to assess if a person is willing to receive happiness.
Daly tells them to start with daily gratitudes. Write them in a book, on a computer or just say them out loud. “Being happier doesn’t mean never experiencing things that make us upset. We always have contrast but we learn to embrace the contrast, work through it and then let it go.”
Learn to listen to your intuition. “If it’s not a ‘Hell Yes!’ then it’s a no. The minute you feel that something is not working, follow your instinct and get out.”
Daly calls herself a “recovering people pleaser.” She now embraces
the philosophy that she teaches clients –
“What you think of me is none of my business.”
To be happier Daly said we must let go of our shaming, blaming or complaining and learn to neutralize our judgments. For me finding that place inside where you feel calm despite what is going on in real time is peaceful. I can think more clearly, be more productive and enjoy little things more. As Daly said, “When people are in chaos they attract chaos.”
Seeking happiness is not just for baby boomers or retired hippies. According to the New York Times, since Yale cognitive scientist Laurie Santos began teaching her class, “Psychology and the Good Life” in 2018 it has become one of the school’s most popular courses. Nearly a quarter of the undergraduate student body enrolled. Her course was so popular Santos created a podcast series, “The Happiness Lab.”
For many years my teachers have said that what you think about you will attract. The more miserable you are the more you only see misery everywhere you look. They’ve also said that we were born happy, but our environment has taught us to ignore our inner guide and listen to voices outside of ourselves.
I spent years rewiring my brain from the “what is wrong with me” upbringing I received, into seeking something good to see in every situation. I have been told I’m a changed woman. And guess what? I’m happier than I’ve ever been. To be happy you first have to be happy with yourself, said Daly. Never hold anyone or anything else responsible for your happiness. Happiness is an inside job, just like love.
To contact Daly: @mary_frances_daly on Instagram. Email: [email protected]
Pattie Cinelli is a health and fitness professional and journalist who has been writing her column for more than 25 years. She focuses on holistic and non-mainstream ways to stay healthy, get well and connect with your true self. Please email her with questions, comments or column suggestions at: [email protected].