How can I find happiness? It’s a questions most of us have asked. Many people spend their lives searching for the answer. Some of us go through life believing the right relationship will open the gateways to eternal happiness. Others believe it’s the perfect job. And there are those who fall victim to western ideals and believe happiness is reserved only for the beautiful and thin.
The idea of a happy and meaningful life has become unnecessarily complicated in some circles, says author and certified positive psychology coach Lynda Wallace, who left a high-powered executive career with Johnson & Johnson to pursue her real passion – helping individuals and groups achieve greater happiness and success.
“Happiness has been appropriately cited as a goal in political debates on issues from taxation to the social safety net to marriage equality, but the debate is often confused,” says Wallace, author of “A Short Course in Happiness: Practical Steps to a Happier Life,” which topped Amazon’s Self-Help Best Seller list.
“Some people claim that happiness is all in your DNA or bank account. The truth is that happiness is largely a matter of everyday choices and actions. There are straightforward, well-researched, and effective things every one of us can do to create greater happiness in our lives and in the lives of those we care about.”
The essential elements of a happy life are not mysterious, she says. Research shows that the happiest people do four basic things that make the difference: they focus on what is good and positive in their lives; cope effectively with life’s inevitable challenges; develop strong relationships; and pursue meaningful goals.
“We can all become happier by putting our efforts into these areas,” Wallace says.
One of the first steps we can take is to get past some of the common misconceptions about happiness that can stand in our way. Wallace offers these four examples: [Click here to keep reading...]
Jean finally receives the news she has been waiting for. However, she’s immediately disappointed – if she accepts her new promotion, she must move farther north, where the winters are long and frigid. She was hoping her promotion would allow her to stay in a warm climate. Jean can’t imagine being happy in such harsh weather. After much deliberation, Jean decides that she will not accept the promotion.
We all know that our decisions today will impact our happiness in the future. If this is true, what influences our daily decision-making? The answer is our predictions of our future happiness. In the above scenario, Jean decides to not accept her job promotion because she predicts that she won’t enjoy her life in a place with such cold weather. But how will Jean ever know if she made the right decision? What if this promotion would have led to an upper management position? What if she would have acclimated to the harsh weather after just a year or two? Each day we make decisions based on how happy we expect to feel in the future. Let’s take a closer look at how we make such happiness predictions.
QUIZ: How Happy Do You Feel?
It may surprise you to learn that, like Jean, people are not very good at knowing how happy they will feel in future situations. Indeed, many scientific studies suggest that people overestimate how unhappy they will feel if something bad happens1.
For example, one study asked participants to predict how unhappy they would feel two months after the end of a romantic relationship. When that time arrived, the study results showed that people had predicted that they would be less happy than they actually were. In another study, women overestimated how unhappy they would be after receiving unwanted results from a pregnancy test. When a negative event occurs, we often end up feeling less upset than we originally expected. Why does this happen? The difficulty is that our happiness predictions are biased. Awareness of these biases allows us to make better decisions on important matters such as our choice of romantic partners, where to live, and how we pursue happiness.
[Click here to keep reading...]