26 Jan Happiness – with practice
If you’re not happy, you can practice activities to become happier. According to researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness, 50% of happiness is our genetic set point – no changing that – and another 10% is due to our life circumstances. A whopping 40%, however, is under our own control that we can shape with intentional activity.
Lyubomirsky dispels, with easy-to-read scientific evidence, the three prevailing myths about happiness.
Myth No. 1. Happiness must be “found”. As she says, “Happiness is not out there for us to find. The reason that it’s not out there is that it’s inside us.”
Myth No. 2. Happiness lies in changing our circumstances. She states, “changes in our circumstances, no matter how positive and stunning, actually have little bearing on our well-being.” Any high points of happiness that you have tend to be short-lived and don’t form the general day-to-day level of happiness over the long-term.
Myth No. 3. You either have it or you don’t. The amazing thing is that “we can overcome our genetic programming” and actually teach ourselves to be happier. I think this concept is so powerful that it can change lives, and it has certainly helped many people with depression.
Lyubomirsky suggests choosing four evidence-based strategies, from the list of twelve below, that most resonate with you: they feel natural, you’ll enjoy doing them, and they fit with your values.
- Expressing gratitude
- Cultivating optimism
- Avoiding overthinking and social comparison
- Practicing acts of kindness
- Nurturing social relationships
- Developing strategies for coping
- Learning to forgive
- Increasing flow experiences
- Savoring life’s joys
- Committing to your goals
- Practicing religion and spirituality
- Taking care of your body
You probably already do some of these things, so keep on doing them if they work for you. I’m happier than I’ve ever been which fits, I’ve learned, with the general trend for most people: we grow happier as we age.
Even so, you might find one or two strategies that you want to start doing to become even happier. Be sure, however, that whatever you choose is a priority for you, and not something you would feel guilty or ashamed about if you didn’t do it.
Reference: The How of Happiness: A scientific approach to getting the life you want. Sonja Lyobormirsky, 2007. Penguin Press. 366 pp.