Hang on to happiness by understanding these 4 myths AND these 5 real strategies

Hang on to happiness by understanding these 4 myths AND these 5 real strategies

by Peg Streep from Psychology Today 

Why aren’t I happier—and why aren’t you?  That seems an appropriate question as we wind down one year and head toward another. After all, the Declaration of Independence guarantees us the pursuit of happiness so why aren’t we better at it?  According to recent research, it turns out that much of what we think about happiness and achieving it either isn’t true or is vastly oversimplified.  Let’s start with four myths:

“Don’t worry, be happy”

Yes, I love the song too but it unfortunately draws on how we think of happiness and unhappiness as polar opposites, one balancing out the other.  This misunderstanding has us indulging in all kinds of “if only” thinking —that erasing one bad thing in our lives will necessarily make us instantly happy. “If only I had a better job, I’d be happy.”  “If only my relationship to my lover/spouse/parent/sibling were better, I’d be happier.” "If only I made more money, I’d be happier.” In fact, two separate behavioral systems govern our reactivity to positive and negative events in our lives so that worrying and being happy operate independently. Sorry, Mssrs. Marley and McFerrin.

Happiness can be lasting

Actually, the very opposite is true. The fancy name for this is “hedonic adaptation” or the “hedonic treadmill.”  As explained by Daniel Gilbert in his book Stumbling on Happiness, human beings get used to the changes in their lives that originally made them happy. You know how you’re positive that one thing—a promotion or a new job, a new house, a new relationship, a Jaguar or a Chanel bag—will make you happy?  Well, it will for a time but then you’ll get used to whatever it is and so, in a matter of time, the promotion just becomes your job, your lover is lovely but familiar, the Jag becomes the car in the driveway, and so on.

Add in the fact that human beings are notoriously lousy at predicting what will make them happy (thanks again to Daniel Gilbert) and it’s not hard to see why hanging on to happiness isn’t easy.

You control how happy you are

I know that no less an authority than Abraham Lincoln supposedly said “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”  The fact is that a piece of the happiness pie is in your control and a piece isn’t.    If you’ve read the work of Sonja Lyubomirsky, you already know about the “Happiness Set Point” but, if you haven’t, pull up a chair.

About 40% of anyone’s happiness is governed by the “happiness set point” which is both genetically determined.  Your temperament and personality are a part of the set point.  About 10% of the set point has to do with circumstances—although, anecdotally at least, most of us focus on our circumstances when we think about being happier (see the “only if” scenarios above), Circumstances include gender, life events, job, security, and income. Part of the small effect circumstances have on happiness has to do with hedonic adaptation.

Now, the good news. Some 40% of happiness is attributable to intentional activity—what people do for themselves. The real problem is that most of us aren’t focusing on either the right things or approaches that might make us happier…

…keep reading HERE for the full & original article WITH practical stratgies for building more happiness.