Some of my most enlightening insights on positivity have come from the book, “The How Of Happiness” by Sonja Lyubomirsky. As a distinguished professor at the University of California Riverside, Lyubomirsky is devoted to studying human happiness- How cool is that?! She initially observed some people’s ability to thrive despite great adversity and challenge, while oppositely, some people fail to be happy no matter how good their life may seem. This led her to start studying happiness the way she does today. Many of us believe we are victim to our life circumstances and we are either happy or we are not. We let ourselves think life is just the way it is and there is nothing we can do about it. Through her research, Lyubomirsky has debunked these myths and others by discovering how much of our happiness level we can control and how much we can’t. Here, I will talk about 3 extremely common myths many of us fall victim to and how we can overcome the incorrect thinking to develop a happier lifestyle.
Myth #1- We are born to be either happy or sad
Answer- Genetics only make up 50% of our happiness
OK, It’s true, genetics play a part in our happiness, but they do not completely determine it. After studying identical and fraternal twins, Lyubomirsky found people are born with a “happiness set-point”, and based on the positive and negative events of our lives, we can travel up and down within this certain genetically predispositioned range. Basically, we all still have a major opportunity to be happy. Granted, it may be a little harder naturally for some people than others, but in the end, only 50% of our happiness is genetic. Much of the rest is totally up to us!
Myth #2- Our Circumstances determine our happiness
Answer- Outside Circumstances only make up 10% of our happiness
It’s so easy to think our circumstances determine our opportunity to be happy. We often think, “Oh man, I have a horrible boring job, a small house, no boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse, and I always burn my daily Ramen noodle dinner- I am not happy now. I can only be happy when these things are changed”. Well, if you have any thoughts like these, you think like a lot of people, but you are also flat out WRONG. Yep, I said it. Our circumstances only determine a tiny portion of our happiness, so while we may think we’ll only be happy when we’re rich or when we have a significant other or when we get our dream car, in reality we probably won’t be much happier than we are now. This is explained by a phenomenon called hedonic adaptation, which means we get used to the things around us. So, while new circumstances may be very exciting at first, we begin to get use to them and slowly return back to our original happiness level.
For example, the other day I wanted a pazookie from my favorite bakery, “The Chocolate”. A pazookie is the most delicious dessert- literally just thinking about it is making my mouth water! Picture a giant, doughy cookie, hot out of the oven with a crispy outside and rich melty inside, nestled under a perfectly round ball of soft vanilla ice cream. Mmmmm. THERE IS NOTHING BETTER. So anyways, I wanted it so bad that I could hardly think of anything else. Of course, I drove myself over to the chocolate and ordered one. After waiting 10 minutes for it to bake, I was dying to eat my first bite! And believe me, it was HEAVENLY. I savored every little second I could with that first bite. Then, I started eating it faster and faster, until I started feeling sick to my stomach. The thing I was craving so badly was beginning to feel much less exciting. Eventually, I didn’t even want it anymore. By the end, I was satisfied, but only felt slightly happier than I did before, even though I spent hours dreaming about my favorite treat before I got it. While this is a simple example, it explains many situations in our lives. Things we wanted so badly before- and swore would make us happier- can become the new normal, leaving us exactly where we were in the beginning. So, if circumstances don’t affect our happiness too much, then what does??
Myth #3- We can’t really do much to Make Ourselves Happier
Answer- Internal State of Mind makes up 40% of our happiness
We have a huge opportunity to control our own happiness. A whopping 40% of our happiness level is determined by our inner thoughts and our subsequent actions! This is where positive thinking comes in. We can literally choose to be happy. We can choose to be grateful for what we have now instead of wasting away our lives wanting more. We can make a hard day as good as possible by striving to find the lemonade in the pile of lemons. We can work hard, enrich our minds, build other people up, and intentionally strive to make each day a happy day!
OK, so we can think positively to improve our happiness, but what are more specific ways we can increase our optimistic mindset? Luckily I have an answer for you! Here is a handy dandy list of 15 ways to intentionally increase your happiness! (Get the infographic) Some ideas are Lyubomirsky’s and others are my own-Woohoo!
1. Avoid over thinking
2. Don’t compare yourself to others
3. Perform Acts of kindness
4. Focus on your relationships
5. Learn to cope with hardship
7. Participate in hobbies you want to do just because you like them
8. Learn to savor the joys of life
9. Commit to your goals – see “ 5 Ways to Turn Your Goals into Reality”
10. Practice religion and spirituality- see “ Yes, I believe in God”
11. Exercise and meditate to take care of your mind and body- See Jessica Homewood’s Facebook page, “Sweat For Success”
12. Simplify and don’t overschedule
13. Clean up and organize your life and living space
14. Have uplifting conversations
15. Act happy
I love that science is proving the importance of positive thinking! We can no longer say we are born happy or sad. We can no longer say better circumstances will increase our happiness. But, We CAN say we can intentionally affect our own happiness by improving our thoughts and internal state of mind. I fully believe there is no valid excuse to blaming others for your misery. Some challenges are crazy hard to overcome, but you can learn to make yourself happy. You can control your life! Make today great! See ya next post!
- Holly B.