The How of Happiness

Just recently I read the book “The How of Happiness” by Sonja Lyubomirsky and I found it to be an excellent read. It is a comprehensive guide to understanding the elements of happiness based on groundbreaking scientific research.
Why did I read this book?
I consider myself a very happy person and I find that I always observe people. For this very reason I can’t help but wonder why some people are happy and others are not.
What does this have to do with my work?
There is no question about it, if we are happy, we are more productive and also more willing to show initiative in different areas of our life. That’s why I want to understand this subject.
Here is a brief summary for YOU!
What determines happiness?

Set Point 50 %, Intentional Activity 40 %, Circumstances 10 %
That’s right, we have a genetically determined set point. The set point for happiness is similar to the set point for weight. But just because your happiness set point cannot be changed doesn’t mean that your happiness level cannot be changed.
The fountain of happiness can be found in how you behave, what you think, and what goals you set every day of your life. “There is no happiness without action.”
If we can accept the fact that life circumstances are not the key to happiness, we’ll be greatly empowered to pursue happiness for ourselves.
Besides our genes and the situations that we confront, there is one critical thing left: our behaviour. Thus the key to happiness lies not in changing our genetic makeup and not in changing our circumstances, but in our daily intentional activities.
What are the thinking and behaviour patterns of happy people?
  • They devote a great amount of time to their family and friends, nurturing and enjoying those relationships.
  • They are comfortable expressing gratitude for all they have.
  • They are often the first to offer a helping hand to coworkers and passerby.
  • They practice optimism when imagining their futures.
  • They savor life’s pleasures and try to live in the present moment.
  • They make physical exercise a weekly and even daily habit.
  • They are deeply committed to lifelong goals and ambitions.
  • Last but not least, the happiest people do have their share of stresses, crises, and even tragedies. They may become just as distressed and emotional in such circumstances as you or I, but their secret weapon is the poise and strength they show in coping in the face of challenge.

Pursuing happiness takes work, but consider that this “happiness work” may be the most rewarding work you will ever do.

In becoming happier, we not only boost experiences of joy, contentment, love, pride, and awe but also improve other aspects of our lives: our energy levels, our immune systems, our engagement with work and with other people, and our physical and mental health. In becoming happier, we bolster our feelings of self-confidence and self-esteem; we benefit not only ourselves but also our partners, families, communities, and even society at large.

If you are not happy today, then you won’t be happy tomorrow unless you take things into your own hands and take action.

How to find happiness activities that fit your interests, your values, and your needs?

It goes without saying that a person needs to make an honest effort in trying a new strategy in order to achieve any benefit.

  • Fit with the source of your unhappiness: The pessimist may benefit from cultivating optimism, the pleasure-lacking individual from savoring, the traumatized person from learning coping skills, and so on.
  • Fit with your strengths: You can start by identifying your strengths, talents, or goals. For example, an achievement-oriented person may do well at pursuing significant life goals or taking up competitive sports as a way to boost his happiness, while a creative person may choose to express gratitude or forgiveness through painting or writing.
  • Fit with your lifestyle: Think about the extent to which the activities you choose can be adapted to your needs and lifestyle. For example, if your life is stressful and hectic, then you can choose activities (like counting blessings) that don’t take any extra time out of your day.

What are some happiness activities?

  • Expressing Gratitude: Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Start writing a gratitude journal!
  • Cultivating Optimism: Looking at the bright side, noticing what’s right (rather than what’s wrong), giving yourself the benefit of the doubt, feeling good about your future, or simply trusting that you can get through the day are all optimism strategies.
  • Avoiding Overthinking and Social Comparison: The combination of rumination and negative mood is toxic.
  • Practicing Acts of Kindness: The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer wrote: “Compassion is the basis of all morality.”
  • Nurturing Social Relationships: Indeed, people with strong social support are healthier and live longer.
  • Developing Strategies for Coping: No life – if we live long enough – is without stress, adversity, or crisis. In the wake of acute challenges like these, many people become depressed, fearful, or confused.
  • Learning to Forgive: Forgiving is something that you do for yourself and not for the person who has wronged you.
  • Increasing Flow Experiences: The key to creating flow is to establish a balance between skills and challenges.
  • Savoring Life’s Joys: We postpone our happiness, convincing ourselves that tomorrow will be better than today. It is important to learn how to appreciate and take pleasure in mundane, everyday experiences.
  • Committing to Your Goals: People who strive for something personally significant are far happier than those who don’t have strong dreams or aspirations.
  • Practicing Religion and Spirituality: On the face of it, science and religion cannot mix. An essential path to finding meaning in your life is to work on developing your faith.
  • Taking Care of Your Body (Meditation): Meditation has multiple positive effects on a person’s happiness and positive emotions.
  • Taking Care of your Body (Physical Activity): Physical activity reduces anxiety and stress; reduces the risk of numerous diseases; builds bones, muscles, and joints; increases quality of life; improves sleep; protects against cognitive impairments as we age; and helps control weight.

The challenge lies in sustaining the new level of happiness! Here are the five hows, grounded in the scientific literature.

  • Positive Emotion: Although all human beings endure negative emotions, happy people experience positive states more frequently than their less happy peers. It’s worth noting that in our day-to-day lives, emotions, thoughts, and experiences are connected and typically occur together.
  • Optimal Timing and Variety: It is good to make happiness a habit but you need variety. So sprinkle a little of this and a little of that, revivify your happiness as an adventure, full of enterprise, developments and detours.
  • Social Support: Think of social support as essentially a force that works with the behavioural change.
  • Motivation, Effort, and Commitment: Just think of it, you are on the threshold of altering your life! Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before.
  • Habit: We all have habits – some good, some bad. Habits form with repetition and practice.

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” George Eliot

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