Where are you looking for happiness?
Studies show that our personal happiness is …
10% Circumstances: You got it. Only around 10% of our happiness has to do with our situation and circumstances.
40% Our intentional activities. This is what we can change.
Lyubomirsky, S. (2008) The How of Happiness. New York: Penguin.
Several weeks ago, I attended an all day workshop called Happiness: How Positive Psychology Changes Our Lives. The workshop was taught by Lynn D. Johnson, Ph.D. who has spent the last twenty years researching happiness. Dr. Johnson shared his research on the benefits to being a happier person along with proven interventions that increase general happiness.
Dr. Johnson, thank you for sharing your valuable and extremely enlightening research with us.
Take a look at the above percentages. Focus on that 40%. Even if you were born a generally grumpy person who has encountered many hardships, you can become, according to studies, 40% happier.
This is very empowering research. It implies that regardless of your predisposition and circumstances you have a lot of influence over your general well-being. This means that your actions are about four times more powerful than your circumstances when it comes to determining your general level of happiness. This helps explain why some individuals are able to bounce back easier than others after experiencing extreme hardship.
- They often have the same pain and trauma as people who describe themselves as unhappy.
- Their happy disposition helps them bounce back quicker.
- They are less likely to have a heart attack. Men ages 65-80 who scored higher on an optimism scale had fewer heart attacks than men who scored lower on the same scale.
- They are less likely to get diabetes. Worry raises diabetes risk.
- They are less likely to get cancer. Optimism reduces risk of cancer.
- They make better leaders. Positive emotion helps leadership skills.
- Happy people have significantly better overall health.
- Marty Seligman found that among Met Life agents strong optimists outsold moderate optimists. 21% the first year, 57% the second year.. and the difference continues to grow. Money did not bring happiness, but optimism brought money.
- Wealth did not increase happiness, but regular exercise, gratitude, and acts of kindness did.
How to be happier: Interventions that increase happiness.
- Practicing gratitude: ”Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” -Cicero
- Jotting down the names of people who have been kind to us even in seemingly small ways.
- Writing a letter of gratitude to someone and actually reading it to them.
- Keeping a gratitude journal. Recording something everyday.
- Identifying our top three strengths and figuring out ways to build on them.
- Exercising: Studies have shown that regular exercise increases happiness and decreases depression.
- Trying to get between 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
- Researching and practicing good nutrition. It is a key to happiness.
- Doing random acts of kindness without expecting anything in return.
- Meditating. It improves lifestyle, reduces stress, and adds emotional resiliency.
- Praying, attending religious services, and believing in something bigger than ourselves.
- Setting and achieving short-term and long-term goals.
- Connecting to other people.
- Smiling often.
- Reframing challenges in our lives as learning opportunities. (Looking for the blessing in disguise)
Johnson’s research suggested that it is more effective to incorporate several of these interventions into our lives rather than trying to do them all at one time. He suggested that less is more when trying to make lifestyle changes. Doing too many new things at once can be overwhelming. For these interventions to work, they should be practiced everyday for twelve weeks so that they become habitual. Any change that is going to last must be practiced and practiced and practiced some more.
Please share this information. Way too many people are stuck thinking that their happiness is 100% dependent on their circumstances and on other people. This simply is not true. It is our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that make such a big difference.
Fredrickson, B. (2000). Cultivating positive emotions to optimize health and well-being. Prevention & Treatment, 3.
Giltay, E. et al., (2006). Optimism and the Risk of Cardiovascular Death. The Zutphen Elderly Study. Achives of Internal Medicine, 166, 431-436.
Johnson, Lynn, Ph.D, Enjoy Life! Healing with Happiness. (2008). http:enjoylifebook.com
Peled, R. (2008) Breast Cancer, Psychological Distress and Life Events among Young Women. BMC Cancer (8:245)
Seligman, M.E.P. (1992) Learned Optimism. New York: Pocket.
*This article is written for your information only. It is not intended to be medical advise. If you experience extreme sadness, helplessness, and hopelessness for several days, please consult your physician.