Let’s talk about HAPPINESS!
Happiness is the feeling we use to describe a meaningful and purposeful life. It is not about the immediate gratification of having something that makes you happy. Sure, doing things that makes you happy will contribute towards your own happiness, but it is much more than that.
Everyone has their own baseline of happiness over time. This baseline indicates how meaningful your life is. On top of this baseline, we have the line of everyday life with the ups and downs. When you have spent a lovely day walking your dog with your best friend, you will be above your baseline of happiness. You are happy and grateful for this moment. But at any time, something can happen and turn your day upside down.
This happened to me recently. After our beautiful walk, my best friend fell and was in pain. At that time my curve of the day was below my baseline of happiness. I had to get my friend to the hospital and be there for her. This was only possible because my baseline was high enough to cope with whatever life throughs at me.
This was not always the case! When you are feeling not well, anxious, stressed, or even depressed your baseline of happiness will decrease. It takes more than happy moments to realise you are having a good time and it only takes a very small amount of negativity to pull you completely down. When you are at your lowest, you cannot think of helping others or trying new things out. You just want to survive and be happy again. Now here is the dogma, the more you think about becoming happy and why you aren’t happy, the less it will make you happy!
Happiness is not just all about life events. Scientists are dividing happiness into 3 factors: genetic predisposition (50%), life circumstances (10%), and intentional activities/ behaviour (40%). Overall, around 40% of your happiness is in your own hands. Remember my friend who I drove to the hospital? Well, she broke her back. You can only imagine that the pain and her immobility to do things will only decrease her happiness. Well, her overall level of happiness decreased slightly but it was not as bad as you think it would be.
Why? Firstly, her friends were showing signs of kindness. Making her soup, cheering her up by calling her, etc… Secondly, her gratitude towards her friends made her realise how lucky she is even in such an unfortunate event. And while she cannot sit, she managed to adapt her desk area to allow her to continue to do some painting which is one of her favourite activities now. Her resilience to cope with the broken back allowed her to enjoy an activity that she likes.
Therefore, to increase your overall happiness you need to increase your baseline of happiness.
We do that by using 10 evidence-based strategies to increase your overall well-being!
You might think that the above things are all reasonable and that you can work on it by yourself, great! But for neurodivergent people and particularly Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) people can struggle with all the above.
For them, we use those 10 evidence-based strategies in a visual, concrete way together with parents or caregivers. This is called the H.A.P.P.Y Project set up by Peter Vermeulen, Phd. I was lucky enough to be trained and guided by him to become a H.A.P.P.Y COACH and to create those workbooks for all individuals on the spectrum.