Happiness in Law Enforcement

happyfaceDoes happiness play a role in law enforcement?

More importantly what are your beliefs about your own happiness?

I think these are important questions because, sometimes if we lose sight of the prize, so to speak, we lose track of ourselves. We all know that depression, suicide, cumulative stress and PTSD are very real hidden dangers of a law enforcement career. What we do about that, and how we stay focused, are the important areas for our examination here. Learning to assess and develop their own personal well-being can go a long way to protecting a law enforcement officer from the toxic side-effects of the job.

In the Armor Your Self™ How To Survive A Career In Law Enforcement training program I suggest that everyone in law enforcement, and yes that means both sworn and civilian employees, learn to strengthen and condition themselves physically, mentally, emotionally as well as spiritually. I believe that these four areas of your “self” are the areas that are vulnerable to the toxic effects of this job that… wear you down slowly over a career in law enforcement.

The targeted goal of the Armor Your Self™ is also to build what I can Tactical Resilience™ which is defined as “A human quality of emotional, physical, spiritual and physiological strength and fitness, that can be developed, and is exhibited through the mind, body, brain and spirit of a police officer or other law enforcement or military professional that allows them to withstand the rigors and hidden dangers of continuous high threat, high stress situations”.

We all are familiar with how to train and condition our bodies to build physical strength. I think the modern law enforcement professional needs to go beyond that strategy because I believe the risks and dangers are broader than just physical risks. The dangers and toxic effects strike us mentally, emotionally and spiritually as well. We as modern professional police “athletes” need recognize that we are professionals who depend upon our bodies and faculties in order to protect and serve our society. In order to protect and to serve as effectively as possible we need to strengthen and condition ourselves in all four of these areas of our beings just like professional and Olympic athletes do. As baseball great Yogi Berra once said about his beloved game “Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical”. I think that success in our profession is also about more than just our physical strength! But Armor Your Self™ is just the beginning. What do you want to get out of your life? What do you want in your retirement? I think that if we don’t have these goals in mind that also weakens us and makes us less effective in law enforcement.

Then we need to look beyond our strength and conditioning as survival mechanisms and work toward establishing a positive quality of life for ourselves and our families. Happiness is perhaps only on, very hard to define component of our overall positive well-being.

In his book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, Psychologist Martin Seligman talks about his work in promoting resilience within the United States Army and he writes: “focusing on the pathologies of depression, anxiety, suicide, and PTSD was the tail wagging the dog. What the army could do was to move the entire distribution of the reaction to adversity in the direction of resilience and growth. This would not only help prevent PTSD but also increase the number of soldiers who bounce back readily from adversity”.

So how happy are you? Take this simple and subjective assessment we created for you that examines your beliefs about happiness in eight areas. For each of the eight happiness keyword phrases listed below rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 with one being the lowest or “Not Happy at All” and 10 being “Very Happy”. These are very broad categories so just work quickly and write in your answer about your first impression of how happy or satisfied you are in each of these general categories.

_____ Physical & Mental Health
_____ Safety & Security
_____ Life Meaning & Faith
_____ Family & Love
_____ Social Life & Friends
_____ Comfort in Life & Home
_____ Life Purpose & Career
_____ Joy & Pleasure in Life

Next CLICK HERE to download our “Your Target for Happiness” worksheet.

After you have rated each category, plot them on the target along the axis for each category. As with our shooting targets a perfect 10 is the bullseye. How’s your grouping? This exercise is only for your use and no one else needs to see it. Use this “target” to continually measure your own simple and subjective assessment of your own happiness in these eight categories. If your score for one or more category, or your grouping of all the categories, is not to your liking this will give you some guidance on where to focus your efforts for self improvement.

Finding happiness and fulfillment in life and in a career is a long and on-going exploration. The fact that you notice a need to conduct this exploration is an Important first step.

Here are some additional resources to assist you in this very important life and career exploration:

Article and Survey by Laura Rowley in the Huffington Post: “Happiness: AARP Survey Reveals Key Factors In Well-Being” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/04/happiness-aarp-survey-_n_1563628.html

Check out the writing and research of UC, Riverside professor Sonja Lyubomirsky
Sonja Lyubomirsky is Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside. Her honors include a Faculty of the Year Award, Faculty Mentor of the Year Award, a Templeton Positive Psychology Prize, and a million-dollar grant from NIMH to conduct research on the possibility of permanently increasing happiness. Her book, The How of Happiness, was released in January 2008 by Penguin Press and translated into 15 languages.
See a video of Sonja Lyubomirsky from the Beyond Belief Conference in 2008 entitled: “Candles in the Dark.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGa6Qq3vBbU

Try out their “Subjective Happiness Scale” measure by CLICKING HERE
This scale is drawn from the research here: Lyubomirsky, S., & Lepper, H. (1999). A measure of subjective happiness: Preliminary reliability and construct validation. Social Indicators Research, 46, 137-155.

Check out these books:

Lyubomirsky, Sonja. The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want. New York: Penguin, 2008. Print.

Seligman, Martin E. P. Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. New York: Atria Paperback, 2011. Print.

I also love the work of Dan Buettner the New York Times bestselling author of THRIVE, and BLUE ZONES. You can take his True Happiness test “How happy are you?” The best well-being assessment online here: http://www.bluezones.com/be-happier/

You might also want to take the Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS) here:
http://internal.psychology.illinois.edu/~ediener/SWLS.html from the work by researchers: Ed Diener, Robert A. Emmons, Randy J. Larsen and Sharon Griffin as noted in the 1985 article in the Journal of Personality Assessment.

Finally, if you really want to dive in and take a free on-line college course consider the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center Course on “The Science of Happiness”. I’m going to join the over 70,000 people from all over the world, including a number of cops, in taking this course CLICK HERE to learn more.

Here are Links to a couple of interesting Articles:




What are your thoughts?  Please share your comments below

Remember, CopsAlive is written to prompt discussions within our profession about the issues of law enforcement career survival. We invite you to share your opinions, ask questions and suggest topics for us in the Comment Box that is at the bottom of this article.

At The Law Enforcement Survival Institute (LESI) we train law enforcement officers to cope with stress and manage all the toxic effects and hidden dangers of a career in law enforcement.

Our “Armor Your Self™: How to Survive a Career in Law Enforcement” on-site training program is an eight hour, hands-on, “How to” seminar that helps police officers and other law enforcement professionals armor themselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually to survive their careers in police work. To learn more CLICK HERE

The concept of “True Blue Valor™” is where one law enforcement officer has to muster the courage to confront a peer who is slipping both professionally and personally and endangering themselves, their peers and the public. It takes a system of organizational support and professional leadership to support and foster the concept of courage and intervention. We will train your trainers to deliver this program to your agency.
To learn more CLICK HERE

Our “Armor Your Agency™: How to Create a Healthy and Supportive Law Enforcement Agency” Program includes critical strategies that you will need to build a system of support and encouragement for a healthy and productive agency. To learn more CLICK HERE

CLICK HERE to read more about The Law Enforcement Survival Institute.

CLICK HERE if you would like to contact us to learn more about training for your organization.

I’m John Marx, Founder of The Law Enforcement Survival Institute and the Editor of CopsAlive.com. Connect with me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

CopsAlive.com was founded to provide information and strategies to help police officers successfully survive their careers. We help law enforcement officers and their agencies prepare for the risks that threaten their existence. Thank you for reading!

About Editor

John Marx was a Police Officer for twenty-three years and served as a Hostage Negotiator for nineteen of those years. He worked as a patrol officer, media liaison officer, crime prevention officer and burglary detective. Also during his career he served as administrator of his city's Community Oriented Governance initiative through the police department's Community Policing project. Today John combines his skills to consult with businesses about improving both their security and their customer service programs. John retired from law enforcement in 2002. When one of his friends, also a former police officer, committed suicide at age 38, John was devastated and began researching the problems that stress creates for police officers. He decided he needed to do something to help change those problems and he wanted to give something back to the profession that gave him so much. He started a project that has evolved into CopsAlive.com. Put simply, the mission of CopsAlive is to save the lives of those who save lives! CopsAlive.com gathers information, strategies and tools to help law enforcement professionals plan for happy, healthy and successful careers, relationships and lives.
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