By JULIE MINDA
DALLAS — Most people say they want to be happy. But in a prosperous era in the United States, depression, suicide and loneliness are at epidemic levels.
That is according to author, speaker, and happiness blogger Neil Pasricha, the closing speaker at the Catholic Health Assembly here. He asked those gathered: "If we all want happiness, why don't we have it?"
Pasricha has reviewed research on happiness and identified simple ways for people to increase their happiness. If people want to be happier, he recommends they break free of some of the trappings of modern-day life and develop a routine of indulging in healthy habits that increase positive thinking.
Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr./© CHA
Pasricha told assembly attendees the seeds of his evolving philosophy that happiness lies in the simplest of things had their roots in his childhood. He and his sister grew up in Canada, the children of new immigrants who lived modestly in their new country. The children lacked for nothing, but they took that stability for granted as most children would. His father often told his children to appreciate how lucky they were. That advice would prove inspirational to Pasricha early in his adult life when he was brought low by circumstances.
In a span of three days, Pasricha's wife of two years told him she wanted a divorce and then his best friend committed suicide. Burying his friend, selling his house, handling the divorce — Pasricha recalled, "I was a mess."
During a drive home from work, Pasricha said his father's words about gratitude came back to him. He started a blog, "1000 Awesome Things," to cheer himself up by writing short takes on things that make him happy. His joys are simple: A waiter or waitress who brings a drink refill unprompted. The comfort of wearing warm underwear, just out of the dryer.
Pasricha said the blog initially had an audience of one — his mom — then two when his dad began reading it. The blog began to gain a following; traffic exploded after an international academy named it the best blog in the world. Book offers and speaking engagements followed. He's now published several books on happiness.
Pasricha said despite unexpected commercial success, he was not happy. In reviewing research on happiness, Pasricha found studies show that people who regularly practice habits that rejuvenate their brains, are happier. He's identified three habits that he says when practiced for 20 minutes daily, can improve mental outlook. The habits are: reading a fiction book, taking a brisk nature walk or completing a journal entry. He said he's practiced these habits to improve his well-being, and he encourages other people to do the same.
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