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The Truth About Happiness

The desire to be happy is uppermost in the minds of almost every human being. We all know that we want it, but the question is, how do we get it? An unknown comedian made the comment "What use is happiness, it does not buy money?"

There are psychologists out there who actually spend their life researching happiness from a scientific perspective. One such individual is psychologist, Sonja Lyubomirsky who is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside.

Lyubomirsky is the author of The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want. Lyubomirsky defines happiness as "the experience of joy, contentment or well-being, combined with a sense that one's life is good, meaningful and worthwhile."

In her book, Lyubomirsky tells us that 50% of our happiness is at a set point, in other words half of your happiness is genetically determined. Only 10% of your happiness depends on life circumstances. The other whopping 40% of happiness is within your ability to control. The question is, what can you do to create the happiness that you long for?

There are some basic misconceptions about how to attain happiness. The first myth is that happiness is "somewhere out there" and must be found. The truth is that happiness already resides inside you. It is a state of mind, a way of perceiving yourself and the world you live in. You can change your happiness by managing the state of your mind.

Another myth is that happiness lies in changing your circumstances. We have all heard someone say, "I'll be happy when I get married, when I get a new car, when I graduate or get that job...." As I stated above, only 10% of our happiness is dependent upon our circumstances. Basing your happiness on sometimes elusive circumstances can be a never ending pursuit, like a dog chasing its tail.

One of the most common misunderstandings is that wealth is a prerequisite for happiness. WRONG! Materialism has actually been shown to be a strong predictor of unhappiness. Money can bring more problems than it solves. "The wealthy are janitors of their own possessions"-Frank Lloyd Wright.

Based on her research Lyubomirsky cites the following as some behaviors that have actually been shown to predict happiness:

  • spend a lot of time with family and friends and nurture and enjoy these relationships

  • express gratitude

  • be the first to lend a helping hand to coworkers or passers by

  • have an optimistic outlook on the future

  • savor life's little pleasures and live in the present moment

  • commit to physical exercise weekly or even daily

Happy people aren't shielded from the trials and tribulations of everyday life; they simply show poise and resilience in coping with their every day challenges.

Since 40% of your happiness is within your own control, make up your mind how you are going to capitalize on that window of opportunity. Starting this minute, you can become a happier, more fulfilled person.

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