5 Myths about the Value of Happiness

5 Myths about the Value of Happiness

from Sandi Smith of The American Happiness Association (www.americanhappiness.org)

In the past year, I’ve been extremely grateful to have been able to co-create an entire organization dedicated to happiness – the American Happiness Association (AHA).  During this time, I’ve watched people’s reactions to happiness, and that has been the most amazing lesson of all.  Here are five false beliefs I’ve discovered about the way people view or approach happiness.   As you read, ask yourself – honestly – whether you share this belief and if so, what might be the ramifications of your choice.

1.       My ancestors were Puritan.  I was taught to be serious and work hard and that happiness is frivolous.

Luckily, this belief is made only in America.  The Australians and Europeans are enjoying a fabulous happiness movement that is changing lives and permeating many of their organizations and institutions.  Australia has the first strengths-based K-12 boarding school, and corporations are quite interested in helping their employees be happier, while only a few corporations in the US – Disney, Southwest Airlines, and Zappos, to name a few – get it. 

Need I mention that Denmark is the happiest country in the world?  Interestingly, Robert Biswas-Diener mentioned in his interview with us that the main difference was that Danes expressed far fewer negative emotions that Americans while the positivity of both countries was about the same.

And the Asians are two millennia ahead of us on the happiness wagon with Zen practices, regular meditation, and the richness and wisdom of Buddhist psychology.

Can we lighten up and learn something from the rest of the world?  I think so.

2.       I’m too busy worrying about money to be worrying about happiness too.

Actually, science and experience show that when you’re happy first, money follows.  I’m sure you’ve heard this a lot, so if you’re still stuck, here’s a quick fix:  Even if you’re in a situation you hate, when you start to practice gratitude, savoring, acts of kindness, and other happiness tools, you change.  People notice, and you begin to attract new opportunities.  Our members and clients have several great stories to share about this, including one lady who hated her job, cleaned up her attitude, and got some new offers (in this economy) the following week. 

3.        I’m not going to pay money for happiness.

We pay for happiness every time we buy food, start the hot water in our shower, shop for clothes,  keep our house warm and dry, bring a bottle of wine to a party, see a movie or concert, attend a sports event, turn on cable TV, or buy CDs, to name a few.  All of this is hedonic, or short-term, happiness, which we all need, but doesn’t last. 

We also pay for the lack of happiness more than we ever pay for happiness itself – through poor health and health care bills, stress, a shorter life (by 7.5 years), and regrets when we look back at the opportunities we missed.

4.        I don’t have time to be happy, or now’s not a good time to be happy.

Well, then, when is?  The clock is ticking.  As our co-founder Bob Nozik, MD says, “If not now, when?”

When you practice happiness, many things in your life start to line up, clean up, get fixed up, and get better.  When you delay it, complications happen that you have to spend more time straightening out.  So when you think about it, it actually costs you more time to delay happiness. 

5.        What will my friends think?  I’ll lose all my friends if I get happy.

This is my favorite one.  I believe two separate things are happening here.  1 – a misunderstanding about what happiness is.  For us, it’s not always wearing a bunny suit and singing Zippidy Doo Da all day long.  We strongly recommend realistic optimism over blind optimism. 

Happiness is interacting with your inner self and your environment in a powerful way that allows you to be amazingly loving, compassionate, and beautiful. 

2 – We have a natural tendency to want to fit into the group, even if it means being mediocre.  What if we infused our friends with more fun, more laughter, and more positive moments?  Who couldn’t resist that?

Changing Your Beliefs 

Did any of these beliefs resonate with you?  What are they costing you?

As New Year’s Resolutions are just on the horizon, consider taking on a resolution that transforms one or more of the beliefs that might be keeping you from a happier life.