A field of sunflowers symbolizes happiness and positivity. (Tara Anastasoff)
A field of sunflowers symbolizes happiness and positivity.

Tara Anastasoff

The power of positivity

May 17, 2017

Happiness serves as the goal of the generation, an unalienable right, and something that one works for a lifetime to achieve. If its prominence in society remains so large, why do so many people find themselves struggling to achieve happiness and reap the benefits of positive thinking?

According to a study conducted by Common Sense media, 87 percent of teenagers report being happy with their lives, but one in four teens report feeling excluded from people their own age.

While stress, anxiety, and worry cloud the minds of today’s teens, many still find simple ways to enjoy life, even if it consists of only one minute of relaxation.

“My friends make me happy because if I’m ever down, they always put a smile on my face,” sophomore Kaylee Jordan said.

The benefits of happiness, however, affect more than just stress levels. Positive thinking leads to a lower risk of heart disease, strengthens the immune system, increases lifespan, and lowers levels of distress and depression, according to Mayo Clinic.

Students at NC try to focus on more than just their grades, but around finals, stress levels peak at an all time high, and many find it difficult to put their mental needs before their schoolwork. According to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, 43 percent of teens report school pressures and responsibilities as their top source of stress.

“My attitude becomes a lot more aggressive, stressed, and snippy because of all the pressure that’s put on me to succeed,” sophomore Madison Oligny said.

Obtaining happiness seems like a never ending task — a fleeting moment that will disappear if the chaser fails to notice the significance — but true happiness begins with positive thinking and self care. Realizing the needs of one’s body and allowing oneself to understand one’s own feelings and desires serves as the first step to the journey to happiness.

Even though environmental stressors and internal conflicts look as if they will never end, looking at the situation with a pair of sunshine-laden glasses makes a world of a difference.

Writer and inspirational speaker Esther Hicks believes that one’s thoughts create one’s reality, also known as The Law of Attraction, and that whatever an individual sends into the universe comes right back to them.

Radiating positivity and happiness shines through, and not only does the individual appear as a happier person, but they send these same ideas into the world in hopes of making the world just a little bit brighter.

“When I see someone smiling, I know that another smile is being made because it makes me smile,” senior Jaylon Norwood said.

While possessing a positive outlook on life boosts overall happiness, other methods make people happy as well. NC students report finding happiness through playing video games, chatting with friends, seeing people learn new things, and both listening to and playing music.

In the American Psychology Association’s report on stress in America, 53 percent of teens listen to music to lower their stress. Music helps the mind to focus on the song or relax the body and soul, creating an alternative world where music makes worries and troubles melt away.

“I go into my room [when I’m sad] and listen to music, usually R&B and Pop, like Justin Bieber,” junior Kennedy Jarmon said.

Tara Anastasoff
The Chant provides simple ways to be happy.

All of these happiness-boosters help to increase the levels of a certain chemical in the body: serotonin. Serotonin aids in mood balancing, anxiety, and happiness. Exercising helps to produce serotonin, but it also promotes blood circulation and energy, which can help the individual concentrate and assist in mood regulation. Exercising carries benefits past serotonin production, but studies find that certain foods help to boost this chemical as well.

Tryptophan, most famous for its presence in Thanksgiving day turkey, remains one of the key amino acids that aids in the production of serotonin. Other than turkey, bananas, walnuts, milk, eggs, brown rice, and sunflower seeds possess this essential building block of the body.

“Seafood makes me happy because it stimulates my body and gives me lots of energy,” senior Arthur Lima said.

While eating a proper diet and exercising helps one feel happier, the true basis of happiness lies in positive thinking. Changing one’s thoughts from “I can’t do this” to “I know this will be difficult, but I will overcome this” changes one’s entire outlook on life.

Realizing that one possesses infinite potential and holds the skillset and mindset to do anything at anytime stands as one of the most important realizations that an individual can come to when trying to obtain happiness.

It sounds easy — thinking about situations positively, eating the right foods, exercising — but as one quickly learns, it appears quite the opposite. While this article focuses on positivity and its benefits, it remains just as important to acknowledge the more negative feelings in life.

“If it were easy to be happy, it wouldn’t be as precious as it is,” sophomore Michael Wise said.

In essence, recognizing and accepting sadness, anger, and fear makes one appreciate the happy moments in life more.

Tara Anastasoff

In addition to welcoming unhappy feelings and thoughts, discovering the root causes of those emotions makes it easier to find effective coping mechanisms, as well as trying to prevent the situation from occurring.

Coping mechanisms range from screaming into a pillow to taking a relaxing bath, but their purpose stands as one to lower levels of stress and restore happiness for the body and mind. An underestimated tactic, but arguably one of the most effective, includes writing down one’s thoughts and feelings. Journaling and sorting through emotions and their causes makes it easier to identify trends in mood, and possibly even certain times of the month that provoke feelings of happiness or frustration.

Looking at the causes of happiness and unhappiness represents the ever-present balance in life. To always feel happy stands as an unrealistic expectation, as does the opposite, but remembering to keep an open mind and accept the good and bad times provides a heightened sense of awareness and perception.

No one can defy life’s hardships, but pushing through life with a positive mindset and a clear idea of goals and aspirations undoubtedly makes it just a little bit brighter. Stop and smell the roses. Look at the glass as half full. Just take it one day at a time and smile.

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