Many people have tried to answer questions that pertain to true happiness: “What are the meanings and mysteries of happiness?” “Is it possible to acquire more of it?” “Can new happiness endure?” These foundational questions are necessary if you want to understand what happiness means.
Every day, we are saddled with a lot of tasks—family, work, personal goals—and we try to do as much as we can with the hope that we will be happy. It gets to the point where we become so absorbed in these activities that we forget how to live and intentionally seek happiness.
Few people realize that by applying some practical strategies, they can enhance their brain and increase their chances of being happy. Happiness offers a myriad of rewards, not just for you but for the people around you.
Results from research suggest that enjoying a real increase in your happiness is, in fact, attainable if you are prepared to do the work.
Where not to find happiness
People tend to look for happiness in the wrong places. They often look for the things that they believe would make a massive difference in their lives.
According to scientific research, these things make only a little difference. So, while you think a relationship, more flexibility at work, and weight loss will make you happy, you’re overlooking the real sources of personal happiness and well–being.
What determines happiness?
- Circumstances (10%): your current situation is only 10% responsible for how happy you are at any time
- Set point (50%): some people are born with a particular happiness set point that has its origin in genes. This governs how happy a person will be throughout their life
- Intentional activity (40%): your behavior also influences your happiness. The key to happiness lies not in changing your genetic makeup or circumstances but in your daily intentional activities.
- Time: If you desire greater happiness, you need to devote time and commitment to search for it. Doing this involves making permanent changes that require effort and dedication every day of your life.
4 Happiness myths
- Happiness must be found
People believe that happiness must be found somewhere beyond human reach. This is wrong because if you are not happy today, you won’t be happy tomorrow unless you take action.
- Happiness lies in changing your circumstances
This is wrong because the elements that can make you happy are with you right now and are waiting to be taken advantage of.
- You either have it, or you don’t
Growing research demonstrates that you can overcome your genetic programming and focus on things that can make you happy.
- More money = more happiness? No
Researchers studied the attitudes of 12,000 first–year college students at elite colleges when they were 18 years old on average and then measured their life satisfaction at 37. The results showed that those who had made money their primary goal were less satisfied with their lives.
Materialism distracts people from relatively more meaningful and joyful aspects of their lives, such as nurturing relationships with family and enjoying the present.
As significant as major life events are to each person, studies suggest that they determine only a tiny percentage of your happiness. So, whether you are young or old, or live in the most expensive house or a shared apartment, your chances of being happy and becoming happier are the same.
Beauty is only skin–deep and cannot guarantee you lasting happiness
Just like material possessions, beauty does not make a person happier, but more people are remaking their appearances every year. Most people report being satisfied with their post–surgery physical appearances but only for a short time.
Beauty is not scientifically associated with happiness, and becoming objectively more beautiful will not make you happier, but coming to believe that you are beautiful without any external assistance is another thing entirely. Research suggests that this may be one of many happiness boosters.
Aiming for greater happiness is no small endeavor; it requires effort and commitment, and selecting an appropriate activity to undertake increases the chances of success. On the other hand, if the wrong strategy is chosen, it is likely to fail, and you may give up altogether.
Grateful people are relatively happier people
The expression of gratitude is an important strategy for achieving happiness. Emerging research has drawn attention to its multiple benefits.
Consistently grateful people are relatively happier, more energetic, more hopeful, and experience more frequent positive emotions. Keep a gratitude journal; choose a time of day when you can reflect and write a minimum of three things for which you are currently grateful.
Instead of writing, you could choose a fixed time simply to contemplate each of your objects of gratitude and reflect on why you are grateful. Martin Seligman and his colleagues tested the benefits of expressing gratitude by investigating a gratitude visit exercise that was completed over one week. They also offered alternative happiness exercises. The participants who did gratitude visits showed the most significant boost in the entire study.
Another happiness activity to try is to cultivate optimism. Looking at the bright side helps you to make out the positive side of your situation.
You can practice optimism by keeping a diary where you write out your idea of your best possible self. This puts your optimism to practice. You can also identify your long–range goals and break them up into subgoals. Looking back at these goals can motivate you to work harder when pessimistic thoughts come.
Many people believe that when they feel down, they should try to focus inwardly and evaluate their feelings and situations to attain self–insight and find solutions that might ultimately relieve unhappiness. Studies have shown that, on the contrary, overthinking ushers in a host of adverse consequences: it sustains sadness, fosters negatively biased thinking, saps motivation, and interferes with concentration and Initiative.
In our lives, we can’t help noticing when other people are doing better than us. And these comparisons can be useful because they inspire you to strive for ambitious goals or to improve weaknesses. They can also make us feel better about our plight.
Social connections, kindness and happiness
The importance of social connections to our health and well–being cannot be overemphasized. An excellent way to improve your relationships is to practice kindness. Research conducted by Sonja Lyubomirsky showed that people who committed acts of kindness throughout the study experienced a significant elevation in their happiness. Still, this boost was reported only by those who showed a lot of generosity in a single day.
Evidence in this study suggested that optimal timing is critical for a happiness activity to be productive. You need to ensure this by selecting an activity that fits you.
Kind acts relieve guilt, stress, or discomfort over others’ difficulties, and encourage a sense of awareness and appreciation for your good fortune. Your kindness leads other people to like and appreciate you. They will also reciprocate in your times of need and can help you satisfy a basic human need for connecting with others.
When you show kindness to others, everyone ends up happier. Happy people are exceptionally good at their friendships, families, and intimate relationships. The happier a person is, the more likely they are to have ample social support. If you begin to cultivate and improve your relationships, you will become happier.
Try to make time for others by creating opportunities for you to get together with your friends. Communicate as often as you can and offer support as much as possible.
Write a letter of forgiveness
To practice forgiveness effectively, you need to appreciate the times you have been forgiven in the past and also forgive people for the things that you blame yourself for. Also, write a letter of forgiveness to a person that has hurt you. You don’t have to send it; it is just a way to let go of your bitterness and anger.
Forgiveness does not necessarily mean the re–establishment of a relationship. You know you’ve forgiven someone when you experience a change in your feelings toward them such that your desire to do good instead of harming that person has increased.
Go with your flow
Flow is the process of intense absorption and involvement with the present moment. Coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow means you are fully concentrating and unaware of yourself. When in flow, people report feeling strong and efficient and are at the peak of their abilities.
A happy life is characterized by flow, and the key to creating this flow is to establish a balance between skills and challenges. If the challenges of a situation overwhelm your level of skill, you will feel anxious, and on the other hand, if the activity is not challenging enough, you will become bored.
Once you train yourself to obtain flow in as many circumstances as possible, you will have a happier life. Flow is good for you because it is inherently pleasurable, fulfilling, and rewarding. The experience of flow leads you to be more involved in life, to enjoy activities, to have a sense of control, and to feel a strong sense of self. All these factors fill life with meaning and lead to happiness.
You can increase your flow experiences by controlling your attention and focusing on whatever task you are doing at any moment. Also, be open to new experiences by transforming routine tasks into something more stimulating. But be careful not to get too engrossed in an activity to the point that you miss out on other vital aspects of your life.
Save positive experiences
You savor the past by reminiscing about the good old days. You savor the present by wholly living in it, being mindful of, and relishing the present moment, and you appreciate the future by anticipating upcoming events. All these are elements of upcoming positive events.
Writing can help you describe a memorable experience or an exciting time in the present. Still, it also prompts you to systematically analyze an event by breaking it down into its parts and reducing the pleasure associated with it. It is even possible to evoke negative emotions such as guilt or worry when you savor through writing. So, instead of doing this, reflect, relish, and share your experience with others.
Happiness does not happen by luck
Happiness does not happen by luck or a knock of good fortune. It requires consistent and honest effort. It can be anything you want it to be; understanding this will help you pursue it more fervently.
Activities such as looking on the bright side, savoring the moment, practicing forgiveness, and striving for essential life goals make a difference in your happiness. It may be difficult at first, but it can be done.
It is never too late to begin to be happier, never too late to try.