Mississippi River, Savanna, IL
“Only about 10 percent of the variance in our happiness levels is explained by differences in life circumstances or situations — that is , whether we are rich or poor, healthy or unhealthy, beautiful or plain, married or divorced, etc.” from The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky
The How of Happiness –
A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want
by Sonja Lyubomirsky
Borrow it, buy it, or I will give it to you.
- Your local library probably has a copy on the shelf.
- Today, Amazon will sell you the trade paperback edition for $11.53.
- I will buy a copy for the first twenty people who ask for a copy and agree to write a brief comment (positive or negative) about the book.
Positive Psychology Isn’t Positive Thinking
Until I read this book I hadn’t heard of positive psychology. I’d read some of the traditional “positive thinking” self-help exhortations from Dale Carnegie to Zig Ziglar. However, I was unaware of the psychological research that focused on how to improve the well-being (happiness) of most people, rather than how to treat the few who suffered from mental illness.
Positive Thinking tends to rest on a foundation of faith. Many of its leading proponents, such as the Reverend Norman Vincent Peale, were or are preachers confident in their faith, less interested in facts. Researchers in the field of positive psychology address many of the same questions (and may reach similar conclusions), but their assertions are supported by research, not faith.
Genetics = 50%, Circumstances = 10%, Intentional Activities = 40%
Lyubomirsky attributes our sense of happiness to three factors:
- Genetics – Sorry to say that our genetics determine a large proportion of our happiness. I would prefer to believe that nurture is more important in our lives than nature, but that may not be true, based on the research.
- Circumstances – Although the Positive Thinkers tend to emphasize $ucce$$ as the primary goal of life, the research indicates greater wealth does not correlate with greater happiness. If you think that a new Mercedes will make you happier, read about “hedonic adaptation.”
- Intentional Activities – This is the core of value in Lyubomirsky’s book. Our genetics may limit our height and a new Rolex may not make us as happy as expected, but what we thoughtfully do can improve our well-being from day-to-day.
Twelve Intentional Activities
Part 2 of the book provides the most value. It describes twelve activities that you can practice to increase the happiness in your life. Lyubomirsky suggests only trying one or two of the activities. Some activities may not apply to you. Some may seem too difficult to attempt.
- Expressing Gratitude
- Cultivating Optimism
- Avoiding Over-thinking and Social Comparison
- Practicing Acts of Kindness
- Nurturing Social Relationships
- Developing Strategies for Coping
- Learning to Forgive
- Increasing Flow Experiences
- Savoring Life’s Joys
- Committing to Your Goals
- Practicing Religion and Spirituality
- Taking care of your body
- Physical Activity
- Acting Like a Happy Person
You’ll notice that this list does not include Winning the Game or Closing the Sale. Lyubomirsky offers ideas about how you can improve your happiness. She’s not preaching The Secret to $ucce$$.