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By Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. and Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D.
Now that all the mega-lottery winners have stepped forward, the overwhelming odds are you didn't win. Americans spent $1.5 billion in their quest to win the jackpot, fantasizing about how they would happily spend the $656 million to be paid out to the winner. As it happened, there were three winning tickets so the final after-tax take home for each will be about $100 million. Still, nothing to sneeze at.
Are you wondering how winners have fared in the past? In many cases, not so well. Over 1/3 were in serious financial trouble within five years, some facing bankruptcy. Others saw their health deteriorate or addictions spiral out of control. Relationships often turned sour, with friends or family taking advantage of them. And after an initial spurt in elation, most were not any happier than they were before winning.
So now that you don't have to spend time counting your fortune or interviewing and hiring a wealth adviser, here are six approaches to think about as you seek the happiness you thought a winning number would bring:
Focus on gratitude. Several times a week, count your blessings and write about three specific experiences for which you were thankful that day. Linger over these memories and choose not to take them for granted. Express your gratitude to those who have made a positive difference in your life - you'll feel happier and so will they.
Savor pleasurable events and emotions. First immerse yourself in these activities, being mindful so that your experience is rich and deep. Then set aside time later to re-live the event and enjoy Your feelings all over again. You'll find that your body becomes more relaxed, your thoughts more focused and your mood more upbeat.
Engage in the world around you. When you're absorbed in a challenging activity that you love and are skillful at, you'll feel more alive and authentic. Your energized focus and immersion in the task at hand create flow. This peak experience is accompanied by deep feelings of fulfillment and happiness.
Build and nurture personal relationships. Studies continue to show that positive relationships provide a buffer for stress and are correlated with greater happiness, wellbeing, optimism, improved health, even a longer lifespan. And they work to create an upward spiral - the happier we are, the more we attract additional positive relationships.
Create a meaningful life by helping others. Receiving a windfall of money - like that coming from a lottery win - doesn't actually lead to a long-term rise in happiness when you use it only for yourself, once your basic needs are met. However, when you spend a portion of that money on others - either as a gift or as a charitable donation – your joy and contentment increase.
Set goals for yourself and work to achieve them. Striving for and accomplishing a goal increases self-esteem and a sense mastery and efficacy. When you overcome challenges along the way, it creates even deeper wellbeing and feelings of control. And the optimism that you have about future meaningful successes can generate authentic happiness.
Is happiness really as simple as a warm puppy? Or as materialistic as a winning lottery ticket? There have been scores of philosophers and theologians over the years attempting to define it and to identify its components. As President Abraham Lincoln put it: Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
How happy will you decide to be?
© 2012, Her Mentor Center
Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. and Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. are family relationship experts with solutions if you're coping with marital stress, acting out teens, aging parents, boomerang kids or difficult daughters-in-law. Visit http://www.HerMentorCenter.com for practical tips. And log on to http://www.NourishingRelationships.blogspot.com to sign up for a complimentary eZine and eBook, Courage and Lessons Learned: Reaching for Your Goals.