Happiness. We all seek it in a myriad of ways, but for some it eludes us like quicksilver. We grasp at things, hoping to achieve happiness or at least contentment, but often joy, euphoria or whatever boost we seek, slips way and we sink back into a very familiar malaise. The problem is, we often seek happiness in things that won’t inherently contribute to lasting contentment. The new car, the big house, the romance, the promotion, like a drug, offers a quick high that quickly wears off.
I too, fell into the trap of seeking that which I thought would bring lasting happiness, but ultimately yielded a great hangover of stress. My energy was channeled into maintaining a lifestyle built to bring happiness, but I was not happy. Yet, every element needed to create and maintain happiness was all around me, I just did not see it. Not until, most everything I built collapsed around me, did I begin to see.
I recently read the book The How of Happiness, by Sonja Lyubomirsky, which is to my knowledge, the best book on the topic, being based on solid empirical data. The book cites that a person’s happiness is influenced by 3 factors:
50% Genetically determined set points
40% Intentional activity
Some people are naturally buoyant whereas others are naturally dour. We cannot change our emotional “set points”. Our circumstances play a small part in our level of happiness, but once our basic needs are met and we are feeling relatively safe, the circumstances about us become less impactful. The good news is we can play a significant part (40%) in creating our own happiness by being intentional about how we live our life. According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, there are 12 happiness-enhancing strategies:
- Counting your blessings (taking stock in what you are thankful for)
- Cultivating optimism (seeing the positive side of things)
- Avoiding overthinking & social comparison (not dwelling on lack or how we measure up)
- Practicing acts of kindness (serving others)
- Nurturing relationships (deepening connections with family & friends)
- Doing activities that truly engage you (spending more time in your “passion zone”)
- Replaying and savoring life’s joys (reliving your joy through writing, drawing or sharing)
- Committing to your goals (keying on your top 2-3 most important desired outcomes)
- Developing strategies for coping (ways to minimize stress, hardship & trauma)
- Learning to forgive (the purification power of letting go of resentment)
- Practicing religion and spirituality (becoming involved in a faith-based community)
- Taking care of your body (physical activity, meditating, smiling & laughing all boost happiness)
What is the payoff for being happy? The benefits are far-reaching! Happy people are more energetic, more cooperative, more charitable, have more friends, are more productive, more creative, more resilient and earn more money as a whole. Happy people also make better leaders, better partners and better parents than those less content.
With such a high return, isn’t it worth putting some effort (intention) to cultivate some key strategies to enhance our level of happiness?