tinynow + continual_learning   2

The Science of Happiness: Intentional Activities To Be Happier
Are you doing the right things to make yourself happier?

We all want to be happy.  We want to feel good about ourselves and our lives.  However, even though we have the power to attain happiness, we usually go about it in the wrong way.  We pursue the wrong things.

In general, most of us have been conditioned to believe that positive events such as job promotions, financial windfalls, romantic getaways or a new car will increase our happiness.  However, science has shown that we are off base and many of our experiences confirm this.

I explained yesterday that a lot of us have a 40% hole in our lives because we pursue happiness in all the wrong places.  Today, I’m going discuss some of the intentional activities that will truly make us lastingly happy.

How would you rate your happiness?
You would think that happiness is hard to gauge.  After all, there is no happiness meter that can tell us just how happy or unhappy we are.  Fortunately, Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychologist and author of The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want has developed a Subjective Happiness Scale.

This measure of happiness is surprisingly simple.  However, Lyubomirsky, from much testing and research, has concluded that this four-item test is quite valuable.  You can score your happiness level online with the Subjective Happiness Scale.

The scale can measure how your efforts at becoming happier are working.  I really like the scientific way that Lyubomirsky approaches the subject of happiness.  It is one thing to claim certain activities will make us happy.  It is another to actually measure it.

Want to find the intentional happiness activities that fit you?
Once you know your current happiness score, then you can determine which intentional activities will fit with your interests, your values and your needs to make you happier.  Lyubomirsky emphasizes that finding the right happiness activities for you is essential because one of the keys to making yourself lastingly happy is to incorporate the intentional activities into your daily life.

You are much more likely to stick with things that feel natural to you and that fit with your lifestyle.  What’s nice is that Lyubomirsky has adapted a test from Ken Sheldon called the Person-Activity Fit Diagnostic to help us determine exactly which intentional happiness activities will work best for us.

In the book, Lyubomirsky elaborates on twelve intentional activities that studies have scientifically and conclusively shown elevate happiness.  The Fit Diagnostic will help you zero in on the four that are likely to be your best choices.

I used the diagnostic and here are the activities that fit me the best:

1.  Cultivating Optimism
Optimistic thoughts are often self-fulfilling.  When we feel more optimistic about the future, we pursue our goals with more vigor.  This becomes an upward spiral of positive experiences building upon itself and lifting us to greater lasting happiness.

How do we cultivate optimism in our minds?  Well, Lyubomirsky and other researchers have found that an exercise called “the best possible selves diary” that works very potently.  In one of her experiments, participants were told:

“You have been randomly assigned to think about your best possible self now and during the next few weeks.  ‘Think about your best possible self’ means that you imagine yourself in the future, after everything has gone as well as it possibly could.  You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all your life goals.  Think of this as the realization of your life dreams, and of your own best potentials.” ~ The How of Happiness

To get the most happiness boost out of this activity, it is important to approach it as a writing exercise.  Writing forces you to organize and analyze your thoughts making them coherent.  I have found many benefits from using this exercise.

2.  Increasing Flow Experiences
What is flow?  It is that state of activity where you are totally absorbed and become oblivious to everything else going on around you.  The key to creating flow is to find a balance between skills and challenges.  If the task is too easy, you become bored.  If it is too hard, you become frustrated.  Flow occurs when you are stretched, but not too far.

Flow is beneficial because it is intrinsically pleasurable and fulfilling to us.  How do we increase flow experiences?  Well, one of the best ways is to simply identify and engage more often in those activities at work, home and elsewhere that absorb our attention completely.

Every individual is unique in regard to what activities create a flow experience for them.  For me, I often reach a state of flow while reading great books or while writing this blog.  In fact, I can honestly say that I’ve been in a state of flow for the last several minutes while writing this article.  In addition, I also experience flow when I’m active in great outdoor adventures.

3.  Savoring Life’s Joys
Savoring the positive experiences in one’s life is very crucial to lasting happiness.  You can savor life in many ways including by:

Reminiscing alone or with others
Prolonging enjoyable activities for as long as possible
Finding ways to intensify pleasurable experiences
Celebrating good news
Being mindful of the present moment
Observing and luxuriating in natural beauty
Recording positive experiences for relishing memories
Seeking bittersweet experiences to enhance the positive side of life

A key to savoring life is to do it even in the common moments.  You have to teach yourself to recognize what is special about everyday experiences.  Live a little slower.  Drink in what you typically pass by.  Reflect, relish and daydream to engage your mind in savoring your past, present and future!

4.  Committing to Your Goals
Pursuing goals adds significance and purpose to our lives.  Without them, we are wandering aimlessly.  Achieving a goal boosts our self-confidence and gives us a sense of control over our lives.  Committing to goals also often forces us to engage with other people which induces happy feelings on its own.

Lyubomirsky offers several very good measures to help guide us in our goal selection.   I’ll admit that I’ve slacked off lately from keeping written goals.  This is something I plan to pick up again and I feel confident that when I do, it will increase my happiness.

A couple of words of caution about intentional happiness activities
It is worth reiterating that these four happiness activities are just a few of the twelve offered in The How of Happiness.  These are the four that the Person-Activity Fit Diagnostic suggested for me.  These may or may not work for you.  I highly encourage you to go through the diagnostic to determine what fits you best.

Also, you may think these activities seem a little trite and corny.  You may feel that they are a bit too simplistic or naive.  Well, there is a lot of science that backs this stuff up.  Lyubomirsky provides numerous references to corroborate her claims that you can check out for yourself.  Also, isn’t this maybe one of the reasons that these activities get overlooked so often?  Don’t we often dismiss the obvious when in fact it is the solution?

What do you think of the idea of intentional happiness activities?  Will you give it a try?

There is more to come about the science of happiness so be sure to subscribe for free so you won’t miss a single article!

Photo by romainguy

Related Articles You Might Enjoy:

- The Science of Happiness: Your Happiness Set Point
- The Science of Happiness: How To Get The Most Out Of Life
- 10 Ways Being Nice Is Good For You
- Five Happiness Myths That Leave Us Feeling Unfulfilled
- The Personal Finance and Better Life Mash-Up
- How We Judge Success Determines Our Happiness
- Living Life To The Fullest On A Fine Fall Evening
- 3 Quick And Easy Steps Into A Self-Improvement Sinkhole.

Please promote this article on your favorite social media site:
Continual_Learning  activities  Happiness  how_of_happiness  Intentional  Sonja_Lyubomirsky  well-being  from google
june 2009 by tinynow
The Science of Happiness: How To Get The Most Out Of Life
Are you using the right approach to get the most out of life?

Many of us are just spinning our wheels in the way we pursue life.  We want to be happy and we continually try to get what we want, but life just seems to always leave us feeling a little empty.

The good news is that there is a scientific approach to solving this dilemma!  If we apply these proven principles, we can actually experience more of what we want out of life.

What would make you happier?
Take a look at the list below and think about what you want out of life.  Would you rather:

Win the lottery and become wealthy?
Land the job of your dreams?
Find and marry the perfect person?
Have two adorable children?
Own a bigger, more luxurious home?
Have a more flexible work schedule?
Live a healthier lifestyle?
Get an extreme makeover?
Be cured of a chronic illness or disability?

I imagine that most of us have desired one or more of the things on this list.  I sure have and it certainly isn’t wrong to want these things, but science tells us that none of them will make us substantially happier.  Surprised?

Research has shown that what we often believe we want from life really has very little to do with making us happier.  These things might give us a little boost, but they don’t lead to a true lasting sense that we are getting what we want out of life.

Do you ever feel like there just has to be more to life?
If you’ve ever felt that there just has to be more to life, then keep reading because I believe this information will help you.  It has certainly helped me get my head straight.

Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California has spent her career studying well-being and what truly makes us happy.  I recently read her book titled The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want.

It was fantastic!  I generally shy away from books written by a psychologists or anyone with the letters Ph.D. after their name, but I’m glad I made an exception this time.

Lyubomirsky and other researchers have discovered the factors that determine our happiness.  They concluded that about 50% of our well-being is determined by an inherited happiness set-point and that about 10% is a result of our circumstances as shown in the chart below.  The remaining 40% is within our power to control through intentional happiness activities.

Perhaps the most counterintuitive finding is that as the chart shows, only about 10% 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.  ~ Sonja Lyubomirsky in The How of Happiness

As you can see, we generally concentrate most of our effort in life on only 10% of the happiness pie!  Most of us, dwell on our circumstances.  We try to find happiness and significance in where we live, the quality of our relationships, our looks, our job and our financial condition

This is why there is a gap between what we want in life versus what we experience!  We are often ignoring 40% of what we could do to get the most out of life.  This leaves an incredible hole that we are trying to fill in all the wrong ways!

I don’t know how you feel about this information, but as someone that is interested in living life to it fullest, I found this to be a huge breakthrough!

Do you have a 40% hole in your life?
Please realize what I’m saying, we are like hamsters running on a spinning wheel!  We work harder, spend more and change everything (including spouses) in an attempt to fill that hole in our lives that never seems to be satisfied.  The only problem is we are doing all the wrong things!

All our effort goes toward changing our circumstances which only accounts for about 10% of our happiness!

What if we redirected our energy to doing the things scientists put in the 40% slice of the pie?  What if we engaged in the intentional happiness activities that real science shows leads to a lasting sense of well-being? 

I suggest that the hole or gap would be filled!  We could find true contentment and get more out of life in every way!  This is the breakthrough!

Why should we want to be happier?
Happiness is about more than just feeling good.  Science has discovered and Lyuromirsky points out in her book that happier people when compared to their less happy peers:

Are more sociable, more charitable and more cooperative and better liked
Are more likely to get and stay married and have more friends
Show more flexibility and ingenuity and are generally more productive in their jobs
Are better leaders and negotiators and earn more money
Prove to be more resilient in the face of hardship
Have stronger immune systems, are physically healthier and live longer

This is a very impressive list of benefits and it fits exactly with what I call super-charged living or living life to the absolute fullest!  Even if you feel completely satisfied with your life, this list should prompt you to wonder if you could be even happier!

What are the intentional happiness activities?
What kinds of intentional activities can we engage in to make ourselves happier?  Well, stay tuned because I’m going to write more about that over the coming days, but I promise that they are not difficult, weird or revolutionary in anyway.  The intentional happiness activities are simple, practical and common enough that anyone can do them.

It does take a little work to become happier, but the pay off is well worth it!  If you haven’t already, please be sure to subscribe via email or RSS so you won’t miss a single article in this series!

Do you want to be happier?  Are you looking forward to learning more?

Photo by Joseph Gray

Related Articles You Might Enjoy:

- The Science of Happiness: Your Happiness Set Point
- The Science of Happiness: Intentional Activities To Be Happier
- 10 Ways Being Nice Is Good For You
- Five Happiness Myths That Leave Us Feeling Unfulfilled
- The Personal Finance and Better Life Mash-Up
- How We Judge Success Determines Our Happiness
- Living Life To The Fullest On A Fine Fall Evening
- 3 Quick And Easy Steps Into A Self-Improvement Sinkhole.
Continual_Learning  activities  Happiness  how_of_happiness  Intentional  Sonja_Lyubomirsky  well-being  from google
june 2009 by tinynow

Copy this bookmark: