The secret to happiness is in our control, say psychologists and mental health experts.
While most people think being happy depends largely on circumstances such as wealth, beauty or success, experts say only 10% circumstantial. Fifty percent is genetic, and 40% of happiness is due to our own actions.
You are in charge of your own happiness, and can take simple steps to dramatically improve your emotional well-being regardless of current circumstances, said pychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky.
Toxic habits such as constantly comparing yourself to others, ruminating over past actions or future worries, and not actively practicing gratitude are the major causes of depression, Dr. Lyubomirsky wrote in The How of Happiness.
By contrast, being grateful for the good things in your life, taking care of your health by eating well and exercising, and increasing flow experiences with fun hobbies are proven ways to make you happier right now.
Happiness Requires Action
Contrary to what most people think, happiness requires active participation on your part, and is not something that’s outside of your control, like your height or eye color.
Just as exercise builds stronger muscles, actively practicing optimism strengthens your joy muscles, said Sonja.
“All that is required to become an optimist is to have the goal and to practice it,” Lyubomirsky wrote in The Myths of Happiness.
“The more you rehearse optimistic thoughts, the more ‘natural’ and ‘ingrained’ they will become. With time they will be part of you, and you will have made yourself into an altogether different person.”
While some people suffer from severe clinical depression and require medical/drug intervention, most people will find their actions can make a huge difference in their emotional welfare.
Psychologist Shawn Achor agrees. Becoming happier can make you more successful — in business and in life, said Achor, author of Before Happiness.
While most people think they will be happier if they’re more successful, Achor’s 13 years of research at Harvard University suggests the reverse is true.
“Your happiness levels don’t really move very much as your success rates rise,” Shawn wrote in The Happiness Advantage. “The research says being successful doesn’t automatically make you happier, but being happier makes you more successful.”