Does it ever happen to you that you get a book recommendation or hear about it yourself, and then it starts following you around, popping up in articles or conversations you have?
One such book is 'The How of Happiness' and it's sending me strong signals it's about time I start reading it. As I'm eagerly waiting for it to arrive, I wanted to share one of its findings I've previously talked about in a class - what determines our subjective happiness.
The author, Sonya Lyubomirsky, found that it came down to 3 factors: genetics, life circumstances, and what was left was down to intentional activity.
If you were to take a guess, how would you distribute a 100% of what determines our happiness across those 3 categories? Take a few moments to guess it in your mind!
Do you have your guesses? I hope you do, as it's very interesting to compare your own idea about this to what research is actually showing us:
50% of our happiness is thought to come from our genes (whether we're more naturally a glass half-full or glass half-empty people)
only 10% of our happiness is affected by life circumstances (think wealth, looks, health, status)
as much as 40% is linked to our intentional activities and the choices we make (how we think and how we behave in our daily lives)
We can take these numbers with a pinch of salt, of course, they're averages and approximations, and will differ from person to person, but it gives us a sense of variance for our happiness and if you're like me reveals two interesting insights:
our tendency to overestimate how much of our happiness is affected by external factors - how often do we think our happiness lies on the other side of what we have, "I'll be happier when I'll have more money, get a new job, find a boyfriend, change my looks, lose weight, [.....insert here......]" , and how often does it shift to a new thing even when we get what we wanted?
our tendency to underestimate how much of our happiness is affected by our intentional daily activities - we often think that happiness is something that either happens to us or doesn't, or that it's limited to big things, big changes or events in our lives, but what it comes down to are the little things, the little habits and the many choices we have through the day to carve out more happy moments for ourselves.
The question then becomes - how can we harness that 40% that is under our control to find more joy and happiness in our day to day, moment by moment? There are many qualities that happier people tend to share - helping others, living in the present, optimism for the future - but the one that's often at the top of the list and what I'd like to invite you to practise today is expressing gratitude.
Gratitude helps us refocus our attention on what we have, take in the good experiences, prevent us from taking things for granted, neutralise negative emotions and give us more perspective.
If you have a moment now, or later on in the day, or maybe just before you fall asleep tonight, I invite you to fire some gratitude neurons with the below exercise.
5 MINUTES GRATITUDE PRACTICE
Close your eyes and think of a few things you are grateful for, anything big or small that comes to mind.
Now, to really take it in and solidify the feeling of gratitude, list at least 3-4 reasons why are you grateful for each thing. What does it bring to your life, how does it make you feel, why are you grateful for it?
Savour this feeling for a few moments, take in your reasons. When you're ready, open your eyes and notice how it made you feel 🙏