If you’re searching for greater happiness in life, wondering how to be happy with all the negative stuff occurring in your life, this will give you some insight and hope for your future.
What is Happiness?
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Happiness is one of those things that we know when we see, but it can be tough to describe it. A dictionary definition will say happiness is a state of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. People who study happiness for a living—positive psychology researchers such as Ed Diener and Sonja Lyubomirsky—call happiness a state of experiencing frequent positive emotions, more positive than negative; the feeling that life (overall) is good.
Note the word “frequent” above, and also the words “more positive than negative.” These are important. We tend to think of happiness as a constant state of being—as in a really happy person is always happy. That’s not true. Happiness is measured more over time, an averaged feeling that takes into account that everyone will have negative feelings at times.
The happy person feels happy more often than not; very subjective. Yet the myth persists that one can be permanently happy when…When I get that promotion, When I find true love, When I finally get healthy, when, when, when. These “I’ll be happy when…” are some of the myths of happiness.
Myths of Happiness
When we understand the myths of happiness, we have a better chance of really being happy because we can stop chasing something that isn’t possible and appreciate what is possible. This is where Sonja Lyubomirsky’s latest book, The Myths of Happiness (Penguin Press, 2013) comes in handy. Lyubomirsky is an internationally renowned expert on happiness.
Her previous book, The How of Happiness (Penguin Books, 2007) is justifiably on my personal list of best self-help books. Her newest book goes further and is more directly usable by those searching for a way to deal with the common personal crises of life—such as losing a job, losing a lover, dealing with illness, etc.
After effectively demonstrating why permanent, continuous happiness is impossible, and along the way dealing with most of the “I’ll be happy when” myths, she divides the remainder of her book into specific, common personal turning points of life. She covers both positive (marriage, children, professional satisfaction, wealth) and negative turning points (single-hood, divorce, financial ruin, illness) to reveal that our misconceptions about the impact of such events is perhaps the greatest threat to our long-term well-being.
If you’ve been counting on winning the lottery to finally be happy, I’ve got bad news for you; you’ll be rich, but after the initial ecstasy of winning wears off you won’t be any happier. Ditto for getting that promotion, getting married, and having kids. The joy wears off. The scientific name for it is hedonic adaptation. In plain language, we adapt very quickly to new situations and circumstances. All the things you thought would make you happy, will make you happy, but only for a short time. Humans adapt to new situations.
The good news of this is that all the bad things you fear—loss of job, losing out on that promotion, failing to find a perfect mate, severe illness, living hand-to-mouth due to low earnings, etc., all these things that we fear might happen are also circumstances for which we have amazing resilience, as we redefine our lives and return to previous levels of happiness.
Really Good News – How to Be Happy
Lest you believe there’s nothing you can do to affect your state of happiness, Lyubomirsky provides many, many interventions that work wonders in elevating your feelings of positive well-being—happiness. No matter what your circumstances, what you’re facing, and what you fear, you can be happier. This book and her previous one should be named the Happiness Manuals, Book I and II.
Surprising Facts of Happiness
Lyubomirsky’s book is filled with information that will arm you to pursue greater happiness more effectively than you’ve been able to in the past. Unlike many self-help books, this one is based on validated, peer-reviewed, scientific studies. There are even some real surprises revealed:
- Married people are happier than divorced, separated, or widowed people, but not happier than lifelong single people.
- Homeowners are less happy than renters.
- Marital satisfaction decreases after the first baby is born and soars after the last child leaves home.
- Two-thirds of the benefits of a raise in income is erased after just one year.
Who is Sonja Lyubomirsky and Why Should You Listen to Her?
Why is Lyubomirsky’s advice better than the other experts you might read about in a popular magazine or see on TV?
Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD., is Professor of Psychology at the University of California-Riverside. Sonja currently teaches courses in social psychology and positive psychology and serves as the Department of Psychology’s graduate advisor. Her teaching and mentoring of students have been recognized with the Faculty of the Year and Faculty Mentor of the Year Awards.
Sonja’s research has been awarded a Templeton Positive Psychology Prize, a Science of Generosity grant, a John Templeton Foundation grant, and a million-dollar grant (with Ken Sheldon) from the National Institute of Mental Health to conduct research on the possibility of permanently increasing happiness.
Her research has been written up in hundreds of magazines and newspapers and she has appeared on multiple TV shows, radio shows, and feature documentaries in North America, South America, Asia, Australia, and Europe. Her earlier book, The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want is now translated and published in 19 countries.
Books from Personal Growth Resources
What is Life all About? How do I Find my Purpose? is the latest in the Personal Growth Resources series of personal growth books. Other books in the series include:
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