NC9 Special Report: What is Happiness?

MGN Online March 2012

POSTED: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 10:16pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - 7:55pm

The pursuit of happiness is one of our nation's core values - a priority in The Declaration of Independence.

And it's a multi-million dollar industry - self-help books, magazines, seminars, and counselors - all tools to help us become happier.

But how well do we know what happiness means? Where do we find it? And how much does it cost?

"What makes one person happy or satisfied in their life is going to be different from what makes another person happy or satisfied," said Dr. Stephen Crites, a psychology professor at UTEP.

For many years, psychology has focused on the complexities of the human mind - or to put it simply, what's wrong with us, and how we can fix it.

Dr. Crites tells NewsChannel 9 that modern psychology also wants to study positivity, happiness, and understand how people can maximize their happiness in a fulfilled life.

"One example is relationships. So, things that have made people happy and that they enjoy doing are things with other people that they care about," said Dr. Crites.

"I think El Paso has a lot of people who are happy because they're so close-knit to their families," said Delia Grado. "Thank God for good friends and our family that sticks together, and they're there for us and they're there for me."

Grado grew up in a home of love.

She told us her happiness was her family, and her parents were her life.

"My father was my hero, my mother was my best friend," said Grado, "It was back in 1984 - my father, who was a very healthy person, was diagnosed with prostate cancer and during our family meeting with the doctor, he said he had about 3 months to live."

Eager to one day become a lawyer, Grado's law school aspirations fell through, and she dedicated her time to taking care of her father, and later, her mother, who lost her battle with diabetes.

When the pressure became unbearable, Grado rediscovered her happiness through her faith in God, and gave up all of her stress for Him to handle.

"There was nowhere else to turn but to Him for when I needed that comfort, that strength," she said. "If you're not a Godly person, well then, find something that does make you feel good."

It has often been said that money buys happiness - but many have argued that feeling of happiness is only temporary.

American millionaire, Donald Trump once said, "I look at money as being something that is totally unessential but something that you should certainly try and have enough of."

"Once you meet the threshold of having enough money to have your basic needs, more money doesn't increase happiness," said Dr. Crites.

"Helping others in any way, I believe makes us a happier person," said Robert Leal. "If I'm able to help someone when they're stressed out, or when they're mad or angry or sad, it feels good, it feels, you know, fulfilling."

A yoga instructor and meditation coach, Leal says the key to happiness is focusing on what's going on in the moment.

"So, a balanced breath, an even breath in and an even breath out, helps calm the body. You actually become more aware of what you're feeling and you're able to consciously let go of whatever it is you're holding on to."

Through meditation, Leal feels in control of his emotions and doesn't sweat the small stuff in life.

"True happiness comes from knowing yourself, knowing who you truly are, and looking within into the heart of your heart," said Leal.

Experts studying happiness say delaying gratification, and achieving long-term happiness brings people the deepest joy because that way, even when bad things happen, we learn to cope better with life's challenges.

"Life always gets better, you know, you can't go anywhere else but up," said Grado.

"One of the things that I've seen recently is that you know, people who are happier, tend to live a little bit longer," said Dr. Crites.

According to an independent research-firm called "Marketdata Enterprises," Americans spent $10.4 billion in 2012 on self-improvement products and services, including books, motivational speakers, seminars, and personal coaching.

And the ultimate goal? You guessed it -- to live happily ever after.

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