If you ask people what they most want in life, the vast majority will say they want to be happy. Yet it’s obvious that depression and unhappiness are epidemic in our society.
While most people think happiness is largely dependent on circumstances such as wealth, popularity, beauty or success, experts say happiness is only 10 percent circumstantial. Fifty percent is genetic, and 40 percent of happiness is due to our own actions.
In her riveting book, The How of Happiness, psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky said you are in charge of your own happiness, and can take simple steps to dramatically improve your emotional well-being.
Lyubomirsky said toxic habits such as constantly comparing yourself to others, ruminating over past actions or future worries, and not practicing active gratitude are the major causes of depression and unhappiness.
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 increase your happiness right now.
Happiness Requires Consistent 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 happiness 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.
Being Happy Makes You More Successful
These are principles psychologist Shawn Achor, author of Before Happiness, agrees with. According to Achor, becoming happier can make you more successful — in business and in life.
While most people think they will be happier if they’re more successful, Achor’s 12 years of happiness research at Harvard University indicates the reverse is true.
“We find that your happiness levels don’t really move very much as your success rates rise,” Shawn wrote in his bestseller, The Happiness Advantage. “But flip around the formula.
“The research says that being successful doesn’t automatically make you happier, but being happier — being more positive — makes you more successful.”