I saw a beautiful movie this weekend called “Happy”. It is a recent documentary with personal stories, interviews, and scientific facts about what it means to be happy. A great addition to the growing number of books and movies in the popular “Positive Psychology” movement.
One of the facts that stood out to me is one I want to share with you. You might already know this concept, and yet, it may continue to fascinate you as well.
When researching happiness among people with varying incomes, researchers have found that the happiness verdict is this:
a) When people shift from poverty or below poverty income to making ends meet, their happiness improves dramatically.
b) When comparing individuals who make 50 thousand dollars a year to those who make 50 million, there is no predictable difference in happiness.
Well, researchers have discovered that our happiness tends to be a result of our genes mixed with what we choose to focus on. On average, we have a typical happiness level that researchers think of as our happiness “set point.”
What this “set point” amounts to-
Have a blissful life-changing moment and when you come down from that, you’ll likely return to your set point. Have a crisis, and when the crisis blows over, you’ll come right back to your emotional set point.
So if you tend to be a crabby ‘ol curmudgeon and you win the lottery, you might be elated (for a second or two), and then you’ll return right on back to your crabby, crappy self.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you’re the kind of person who takes positive actions and focuses on solutions (instead of problems), you’ll navigate through a distressing situation faster and healthier, and you’ll be right back to your regular, practiced state of happiness in no time.
The use of the word “practice” is very intentional.
Happiness is simply a product of practice, though we often don’t think of it that way. We live in a culture where we are taught think that more “stuff” will make us more happy. Or maybe happiness will be that great payoff when we reach our goals and deem ourselves a “success.”
But then success comes, and we’re still unhappy.
And sometimes, the person who has the most material wealth or who is considered very successful finds that they are not happy at all.
Happy people are not any more or less lucky than the non-happy, any more gifted, or privileged. In fact, sometimes the happiest and most soulful people are the people who have less. What they do have is a regular habit of focusing on the positive. The beauty is, you can choose to hop on this bandwagon at any time!
Do it now, with this 2 Minute Happiness Pick Me Up
It’s easy and fun!
1) Think of a positive experience that has shaped who you are today.
2) Close your eyes and imagine this experience as vividly as you can. As you do, imagine you are turning up an internal dial from 1 to 10, and the higher the dial goes, the more you feel the positive feelings filling your body. Then, as your imaginary dial hits 10, tune in to your gratitude for this experience. Let this gratitude connect with every part of your body, head to toe, from your shoulders to the very tips of your fingers. Feel your heart beating with gratitude.
Now, come back.
You might notice that after this short exercise you feel lighter, more energized, and happier!
With continued practice, you can elevate your happiness set point.
What if instead of saying “Okay” when someone asked how you are doing, you could say "Great!" and mean it?
You can with practice. And, it doesn't take any special equipment, medication, or money; all you need is you and your focus.
Do it, and watch your happiest self rise to the surface.