What should make you happy, but doesn’t. What shouldn’t make you happy, but does. — Sonja Lyubomirsky
I used to think that I would be happy when I landed my dream job, got married to the perfect woman, and I had enough money so that I didn’t have to work another day at a job I hated.
Unfortunately, I found that none of these things had a long-term impact on my happiness.
Over the years I have spent a lot of time researching why the things that I thought would make me happy didn’t have a long-term impact on my happiness.
I found is I was believing several myths.
You may be believing the same myths.
What I have learned is if you want to experience more happiness in your life, you have to understand and change your views on what happiness is and how it really works.
You have to overcome the myths.
In her book, The How Of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky talks about three of the myths you need to change to be truly happy:
Myth №1: Happiness is a destination.
If you are anything like me, you are thinking of happiness as a destination. You will be happy when you achieve something. It might be a career, money, marriage, or just living in a new country.
The bad news is these things will not make you happy. In fact, research has found that they only contribute to about 10% of your happiness.
The good news is the same research found that 40% of your happiness is in your hands. Things that you can control like your behaviors and your mindset (more about that later).
Happiness isn’t the emotional finish line in the race of life, it’s a process and a resource. — Biswas-Diener
Your happiness is more about the journey than the destination — learn to enjoy the journey.
Myth №2: Either you have it or you don’t.
Happiness research tells us that genetics plays a large role in our happiness. In fact, the evidence suggests that it makes up about 50% of your happiness “set point.”
If you do the work, research shows you can become happier, no matter what your set point is. You probably won’t go from a one to a 10, but you can become happier. It just takes commitment and effort as with any meaningful goal in life. — Sonja Lyubomirsky
Doing the work means changing your behavior and your mindset.
Is this easy, no.
But, it does get easier over time.
Doing the work includes activities such as keeping a gratitude journal, committing random actions of kindness, working on improving your relationships, and exercising more often.
Invest some time each day in one or more of these activities that are proven to increase your happiness.
Myth №3: Happiness is only about your pleasure
Happiness is not just about you and your pleasure. It is also about doing nice things for other people. In fact, doing random acts of kindness has been proven to be one of the quickest ways to increase your happiness.
When people help others through formal volunteering or generous actions, about half report feeling a ‘helper’s high,’ and 13% even experience alleviation of aches and pains — Stephen G. Post
I would have never guessed that doing things for others would improve my happiness.But, I have found that every time that I spend volunteering, I feel great because I did something nice for someone in need. I get kind of a “helper high.”
I bet you do too.
This happens because helping others promotes the release of serotonin, and other positive endorphins which literally do make you feel better.
Better yet, a National Academy of Sciences study showed,
“simply thinking about contributing to a charity of choice activates a part of the brain called the mesolimbic pathway, the brain’s reward center, which is associated with feelings of joy.”
Just thinking about giving to a worthy cause can increase your happiness.
Bringing It All Together
If you’re looking for a magic bullet to increase your happiness, you probably won’t find one because there is on one size fits all solution.
But, you can increase your happiness by understanding and overcoming these three myths.
Pick an activity that fits your personality and lifestyle.
For me, it’s writing down the three things that I am grateful for every morning. It’s working on my relationships with my wife and daughter, and it’s giving my time and money to causes that I can relate to.
For you, it may be something totally different.
Your choices need to be relevant to your life, so try a few different activities and find the ones that are the best fit for you.
Pick one today to get started on the road to overcoming these myths and increasing your happiness.