Robert Holden is selling the most precious commodity in the world: happiness.
The British psychologist and professional coach has touted his “fast track to happiness” on “Oprah,” CNN and PBS, in 10 bestselling books and on a weekly radio program. But he’s not just a “think positive” pitchman. Holden, who has a doctorate in psychology, is a research-based scientist who has been studying facets of positive psychology — happiness, success, confidence — for decades. Holden will be in town to speak at Empower, a health and wellness event. We talked to him about bliss bunnies, joy and gratitude.
Q: You advise us to “stop searching for happiness and follow your joy.” Why?
A: Searching sounds good, but the mind-set it creates is that you’re searching outside of yourself. Our research shows us that nothing in the world makes us happy — and everything in the world encourages us to be happy.
Q: How so?
A: Happiness isn’t about the absence of sadness. I haven’t met anyone who hasn’t had some sadness. The people who are happiest are the ones who have learned to enjoy themselves, learned to enjoy their lives.
Q: That sounds sort of hedonistic, especially to a born-and-bred Minnesotan. Is it?
A: Following your joy doesn’t make you just a bliss bunny. Your joy is a calling, a purpose. You have you ask yourself, “When do I feel most alive?” “What has meaning to me?” “What gives me a sense of significance?” That’s tough stuff. In some way, following your joy is the ultimate act of courage.
Q: So it takes courage to be happy?
A: Yes. And it takes honesty and forgiveness. You can’t hold a grievance and be happy. You can’t be a victim and be happy. Just thinking positive thoughts won’t do it. You have to be honest first.
Q: That sounds like a lot of work. What’s the payoff?
A: The purpose of happiness is to help you be authentic. We’re not alive just to pay off the mortgage. Yes, we have to do that. But if our life doesn’t add up to some sort of point, it’s not worth it.
Q: Is searching for happiness self-centered?
A: One of the fears about happiness is that having too much of it is selfish. But people who are genuinely happy also are altruistic. When we’re happy, we’re being our authentic selves. We’re not caught up in a neurotic drive for self-improvement.
One of the biggest mistakes we’ve told ourselves is that happiness has to be deserved. Happiness isn’t deserved, it’s our true nature.
Q: You promote gratitude and prescribe gratitude exercises as “shortcut” to happiness. Why?
A: Everyone thinks they have gratitude down. But gratitude is better than we realize. Gratitude shifts our perception. It stops us searching and starts us seeing what’s here. It’s truly a transformative exercise.
Q: Is your message appropriate for a fitness event?
A: Yes. The industry is more holistic, encompassing the body with the mind and the soul. It’s not just about a better physical body, but about enjoying your life more.