I have been interested in person positivity, well-being, and happiness for quite some time now. My first look into the idea of positivity and happiness was while I was in college and wrote a twelve and half page essay on happiness. In this essay, I collected a decent amount of research on the topic which revealed very interesting facts and possible ways to boost happiness.
First ask yourself what makes you happy? Or, what will make you happy? A lot of people might answer that if I had a new car, or if I lived somewhere else, or this new pair of shoes will make me happy. This makes sense right? Shiny new items, what’s better than that? Sorry, but you would be wrong. New items in your life do not actually make you happy! We adapt too quickly to our environment and surroundings for what is called our life “circumstances” to have lasting effects of happiness. Most of us have been there, when we get a new item or move it makes us happier for awhile, but then we get used to it. It stops being that shiny new item very quickly.
Now I am going to quote myself from the paper that I wrote a few years ago. Why? Because I can.
“Lyubomirsky et al, (2005) developed a model of happiness suggesting that circumstances only account for 10% of total well-being, 50% for the genetic set point, leaving 40% for what they called ‘intentional activity.'”
What this means, is a large majority of our potential happiness is genetically determined and tends to be the baseline our happiness will return to. There are people who are just genetically happier people and there are people who are simply genetically less happy. Only ten percent counts for our house, our car, our jobs, and the items we have. Yep, that’s it, a measly 10%. The other 40% is determined by WHAT WE DO! Now this is very important. Our own actions are what can boost our happiness, even our long term happiness! The only problem is finding out just exactly what actions can bring sustained happiness.
Curious to find out what that is? That “intentional activity?” I bet you are just dying to know! You’re in luck, because I’m going to tell you. Based on scientific studies conducted by Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005), Sheldon, K. M., Boehm, J. K., & Lyumbomirsky, S. (in press), and Seligman, Rashid, & Parks (2006), actions like counting blessings, setting relevant personal goals, performing acts of kindness, and writing letters of gratitude can elevate well-being and happiness for UP TO ONE YEAR! Isn’t that amazing?
To help even further, Sheldon, K. M., Boehm, J. K., & Lyumbomirsky, S. (in press), found that SWITCHING UP your routine can help battle that “headonic treadmill,” which is a fancy term for the fact that we as people become too used to activities too quickly. So, if you pick more than ONE happiness boosting activity and even switch that activity up from time to time, you can actually maintain the elevated levels of positivity and well-being for an extended period of time.
And let’s face it, everyone wants to be a little bit happier right? So I’m going to challenge you guys to pick at least ONE of these things to do, counting blessings, random acts of kindness, to do for one month and then report back to me. Let me know how you feel, if you feel it worked, if you think me and a bunch of scientists are all blowing smoke up your you-know-what.
Personally, I am going to pick random acts of kindness. This can be something as simple as, waiting to hold that door open for someone, letting someone cut in front of you in line, paying for the person behind you line at Starbucks, or whatever you can think of that would brighten someone else’s day. I will report back to you in about a month to let you guys know what I did and how I feel after my months challenge.
Curious about where I got my info?? Interested in reading the full study? Awesome. Listed below are the peer-reviewed published articles I referenced in this post.
Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology, 9, 111-131.
Seligman, M. E. P., Rashid, T., & Parks, A. C. (2006). Positive psychology. American Psychology, 61, 774-788.
Sheldon, K. M., Boehm, J. K., & Lyumbomirsky, S. (in press). Variety is the spice of happiness:
The hedonic adaptation prevention (HAP) model. To appear in I. Boniwell & S. David (Eds.), Oxford handbook of happiness. Oxford: Oxford University Press.