The Science of Happiness. What Makes Us Happy?


By Morag Barrett on July 22, 2014

Posted by Morag Barrett | July 22, 2014The Science of Happiness. What Makes Us Happy?I was driving to a client meeting this morning and as I rounded the corner the Rocky Mountains hove into view. Bright blue sky with a few white puffy clouds.  My heart swelled and I felt happy. The moment made me pause, what makes us happy?  What makes me happy? The list could be long, but here are a few (eclectic) selections from my happiness listDelivering a great piece of work for a clientMy family & friendsTravelEating a Cadbury’s Cream EggMusic – Singing along to my favorite song, dancing, playing bassoonWhen was the last time you stopped to consider what makes you happy?  In fact, why not jot down a few of your “favorite things” that make you happy right now… I’ll wait for you!Take a look at your list.  What made the cut? I am particularly interested in what made the top of you list as what we think will make us happy can sometimes be off base. While we may work hard to achieve pleasure and fulfillment, we often misunderstand the factors that influence our positive experiences and what makes us happy.I hear this from my coaching clients: “I’ll be really happy when…” We assume certain events and milestones will do the trick:A promotion at workA clean bill of healthA fun night outWhen my [insert sport] team wins the championshipWhen I finish this projectWe routinely overestimate the degree to which material goods will bring us happiness. Money may contribute to happiness (at least a little bit, it allows me to travel, to buy the cream egg), but the feeling doesn’t last. Meanwhile, as we pursue a variety of dead ends, keeping up with the Jones’, we ignore the more fruitful ways to increase happiness. We overlook the little things that can bring great joy.Researchers such as Sonja Lyubomirsky generally agree that we’re happiest when we combine frequent good experiences with a few very intense ones. To feel happy, we must focus on the frequency — not the intensity — of positive life events.Learning how to take pleasure in little victories, recognizing their importance in our lives and working hard to minimize negative events will accomplish more than waiting around for a single über-happy experience.5 Character Strengths that Bring HappinessAttaining happiness also requires you to believe that you contribute to events and play a major role in their outcomes. A sense of mastery over both positive and negative events in your life is essential to your overall sense of well-being.Positive-psychology researchers Nansook Park, Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman have been studying 24 character strengths to determine their role in creating subjective feelings of happiness. One key study, with more than 4,000 participants, revealed that five of these strengths are most closely related to life satisfaction:GratitudeOptimismZestCuriosityThe ability to love and be lovedIt’s important to note that each of these strengths can be learned. You can become more grateful, optimistic, zestful, curious and loving if you’re willing to make the effort. I’ve seen it happen and it can happen to you.If you’d like to understand how you can learn to be happier, consider calling us today. Let’s talk.Related ArticlesTags »Emotional IntelligenceEQ Share
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