Let’s rethink Happiness: A transformative thinking about happiness

Monday 20th of March was the International Day of Happiness 😁. In this article, in honour of happiness, I will share some misconceptions, interesting facts and tips about happiness…

 

Let’s start with the definition of happiness 🥳. Also called hedonic or subjective wellbeing, according to Psychology, happiness is made of:

👉🏼 Satisfaction with life : our own evaluation of how well we are doing with health, relationships, work, money…

👉🏼 Positive and negative emotions: frequency and intensity with which we experience positive emotions (joy, excitement…) and negative ones (fear, anger…)

 

So happy people 😀 are satisfied with their lives, experience pleasant emotions frequently, and negative emotions less frequently (Diener, 2000). Often confused, Happiness is one component of wellbeing but not a synonym!  

Note that happiness does not mean avoiding our negative emotions but rather experiencing them less frequently than positive ones. 

 

First let’s explore our false intuitions about happiness. 

Misconceptions about happiness: what we think makes us happy in fact does not! 

 

We think money, more stuff, true love, a career, kids… will make us happy! How wrong are we?! 

  • 💰 Money: Tons of studies show that globally income does not have much effect on our happiness and that the impact is mainly driven by ‘developing nations’. So once basic needs are covered, the extra money is not going to help our happiness level! Going further, an American study in 2009 by Deaton & Kahneman found that there is a household income’s threshold – so called ‘satisfaction point’ – after which people are not getting any happier! (equal to 75k$ in the US). Various studies have also proved that lottery winners are not happier! 
  • 🚗🏡👠Stuff (sports car, big house, handbags!…): Owning more cool things is not going to make us happier! In the US, the happiness level in the 40’s where people did not own all that stuff we do now (latest iphone,…) was higher than happiness level in 2015! Consumerism is not only negative for the planet but also does not make us as happy as we think…Going further being materialistic is making you 😞 unhappier than non-materialistic people! 
  • ❤️ True love ’’They married and lived happily ever after’’ from Disney movies is that true!? 🤔 Hmm, in fact yes you are happier in the pre-wedding phase and in the first couple of honeymoon years but then your level of happiness gets back to baseline and equal to non-married people…

Other misconceptions of what make us happier…perfect body, kids (ouch! although results may seem to depend on the countries…), tons of free time, chasing success…

 

So if success (money, stuff, fame, a perfect body, perfect career…) does not lead to happiness! Let’s stop living in this perpetual pursuit of happiness thinking that only when we reach certain goals, we can be happy! 

👉🏼 Note that it does not mean such achievements are not making us happy, it does for a little while (hours to weeks) but then we look for the next goal that we hope will this time really make us happy! 

 

Success is not the key to happiness, happiness is the key to success! 

 

In reality success is not the key to happiness – happiness 😁 is the key to success 👏🏼! Research tells us that people who are generally happy 🥳 reach faster more desired goals 🏆 than people with a lower happiness level. Happy people benefit: 

  • 1️⃣ Personality: Healthy confidence, self-efficacy, self-control, perseverance, generosity 👍🏻 
  • 2️⃣ Social life: Large networks of close and high-quality relationships (family, friends, work, community…) 🫶🏼
  • 3️⃣ Work: Access to better job opportunities and perform well with high levels of engagement, creativity and productivity! 🏆
  • 4️⃣ Income: Make more money on the long term 💲 
  • 5️⃣Health: longer life expectancy with higher health (physical and mental) consciousness and practice. 💪🏻 

👉🏼 Note that it does not mean unhappy people can not experience success in life but it will be harder for them. 

 

💡So stop aiming for success to be happy, seek for happiness to be successful! Ok easier done than said … 

 

Hold on! Can we even really find happiness?🤔

 

👍🏻 Good news! Yes we can positively influence our happiness!! Have you heard about the happiness pie (Lyubomirsky et al, 2005, 2019)? It shows that: 

✅ Although our genetics and personality 🧬 have the most influence on our happiness (30 to 40%)! E.g: Twins studies show that happy or unhappy genetic heritage is difficult to move away from. 

✅ Our intentional activities such as our choices of actions and thoughts can still largely raise (or not) our happiness level (15 to 40%)! While in our control, it still requires some level of willpower, commitment and effort…

Note the remaining 10 to 30% corresponds to our life circumstances. Life circumstances are very broad; it includes for instance demographic factors (ethnicity, gender,…), personal history (hardships,…), macro structures (country development level and culture,…) and other factors such as health, marital/family status, education, lifestyle, work…Life circumstances are more or less controllable but their low % suggest – as discussed above – that any life circumstances change (E.g. getting your next promotion, or getting married…) is not going to have much effect on your happiness’s level…

 

So, what is the secret to happiness😁?

 

👍🏻 Another good news: the secret to happiness is not much of a secret anymore! Let me share my three INTENTIONAL tips:

  • 1️⃣ Seek for positive emotions: Remember one of the components of happiness is experiencing frequent positive emotions…so let’s do it…intentionally! 
    • 👉🏼Savour great moments (family time, night out with your friends💃, great song 🎤, walk in nature🌈…). For instance I love taking pictures of these moments to capture the positive emotions (joy, amusement, love…) and create beautiful memory-prompts. 
    • 👉🏼Be kind to others 🫶🏼! Did you know that giving brings more happiness than receiving!!? I once took a 7-day-challenge to daily practice and record acts of kindness 💗 from saying something nice to strangers, writing kind notes to giving to charity…It was absolutely incredible how much satisfaction, hope, pride and inspiration I felt throughout the week! All positive emotions! 
    • 🖐🏼Again happiness does not mean avoiding our negative emotions but rather experiencing them less frequently than positive ones!
  • 2️⃣ Drive your satisfaction: Remember the other component of happiness is how satisfied we are with our life. It refers to our own interpretation of how well we do vs how well we really do, you get the difference! So my simple ways to improve life satisfaction are to: 
    • 👉🏼 Be kind to yourself 🫶🏼. By reducing (some of 😉) my expectations (E.g. Exercising a few times a week is great enough, ‘Meet Expectations’ is a great enough performance rating😉) I set myself for further success 👏🏼!! 
    • 👉🏼 Focus on the positive ➕: my train is late: I have time to buy a magazine. It is raining: great for groundwater levels! We can not control bad things from happening but we can control our thoughts: see the good to better cope with stressful situations and be happier.  
  • 3️⃣ Nurture your relationships 💛. We talked about it before but I will repeat again and again that connecting with people ☀️ is one of the most powerful happiness tricks! I spent last weekend with my girlfriends, such a boost of happiness!! 

 

👉🏼 Of course putting these tips in practice is not easy! It requires willpower, commitment and effort…but it is absolutely worth it and it can be done one tip at a time! 

Take care 

Follow me on linked in (https://www.linkedin.com/in/augautier/) and instagram (https://www.instagram.com/wellbeingyourpotential/)

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