The Art of Happiness

Happy New Year!

I have a feeling that 2010 is going to be a great year. Dreams will come true, life purposes fulfilled and happiness abounds. But that should be true every year.

Happiness is never ending. It is always there for the taking.

According to Alexander Chalmers, a Scottish doctor who gave up medicine to become a journalist, “The three grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, someone to love and something to hope for.” I don’t know about his personal life but it seems as though Alexander Chalmers did what he loved and he probably hoped that doing what he loved would make him happy.

Often times when we wish someone a Happy New Year, we also say, “and have a prosperous new year.” Although prosperity is sometimes equated with financial wealth we can also prosper emotionally or physically or through the development of friendships. Mr. Chalmers quote is just one person’s opinion on happiness, but I believe he hit the nail on the head.

One study in the journal Health Economics Policy and Law showed that alleviating psychological distress through therapy is at least 32 times more cost effective than financial compensation. They concluded that improvements to mental health care might be a more efficient way to increase the health and happiness of our nations than pure income growth. Talking to a friend is great therapy and it’s free.

In a journal abbreviated as Pers Soc Psychol Bull. (bulletin), one study demonstrated that income was more strongly associated with happiness for individuals paid by the hour compared to their non-hourly counterparts. That’s not “Bull.” at all. Most people would agree that they feel more valuable when paid by the hour versus a salary. You know the saying, “time is money.” Deep down everyone wants to feel valued for their time and effort. A fun work environment also makes a huge difference in overall happiness and productivity.

In a Japanese journal simply called “Work,” researchers looked at lifestyle factors affecting overall happiness or depressive state of employees. They found three main factors affecting overall happiness. They are: sleeping at least 6 hours a night on average, exercising regularly and eating breakfast everyday. These habits increased with increasing age along with happiness. A feeling of unhappiness was associated with reduced sleep. The researcher concluded that aging was a preventative factor against a feeling of unhappiness. That’s good to know since I will be 41 next week. I may be getting older but I am also getting happier!

Another Japanese study showed an increased incidence of heart disease amongst men who had less enjoyment in life. For women, however, the perceived level of life enjoyment was not associated with risks of cardiovascular disease incidence or mortality. Whew, thank goodness, since we women can have our good days and our bad days.

And finally, there’s a study entitled, “It’s good to be good: science says it’s so.” People who help others usually have healthier, happier lives, which all comes back to Chalmers quote: “…something to do, someone to love and something to hope for.” Or else let it all go, go out and help as many people as possible and happiness will forever be yours, especially as you get older like me. Do we really need “science” or anyone, for that matter, to tell us what makes us happy? I don’t think so. Similar to good nutrition, happiness is intuitive. We know what’s right in our hearts. It also helps to surround yourself with happy people since happiness is contagious.
When all else fails, comfort food never does. Everytime I dine with a friend looking for comfort food, Mac and Cheese is what they seek. Now you can make a healthier version at home. Its way better than boxed stuff I grew up eating. Enjoy and have a VERY HAPPY New Year!
Happy Mac and Cheese
6 ounces elbow macaroni, quinoa, brown rice or whole wheat (about 1 1/2 cups dry)
2/3 cup Monterey jack or cheddar cheese (almond, rice or organic dairy)
1/2 cup cottage cheese (measure drained)
1/2 cup almond or organic milk
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon tobacco
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs or 1 slice toasted bread pulsed in food processor
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 Tablespoon fresh grated parmesan

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a large pot of boiling water, cook the macaroni until done. Drain. Coat a small (8X8 inch) baking pan with a little oil. Add the macaroni and cheddar. Toss to combine. In a food processor or blender, puree the cottage cheese, milk, eggs, tobacco and 1/2 teaspoon of the mustard. Pour mixture over the macaroni and stir to combine. In a small bowl, mix the bread crumbs with the paprika, Parmesan and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon mustard. Sprinkle over the macaroni. Bake for 25 minutes.
Per serving: 320 calories, 7g fat, 22g protein, 40g carbs. An unlimited supply of happiness!