What Makes Us Feel Happy Isn’t What We Think

Happy-executiveWhat we think will make us feel happy is usually off-base. While we may work hard to achieve pleasure and fulfillment, we often misunderstand the factors that influence our positive experiences.

I hear this from my coaching clients: “I’ll be really happy when…”

We assume certain events and milestones will do the trick and make us feel  happy:

  1. A promotion at work
  2. A clean bill of health
  3. A hot date
  4. Victories by our favorite political candidates or sports teams

We routinely overestimate the degree to which material goods will bring us happiness. Money may contribute to happiness (at least a little bit), but the feeling won’t last.

Meanwhile, as we pursue a variety of dead ends, we ignore the more fruitful ways to increase happiness.

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 Happiness

Attaining 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:

  1. Gratitude
  2. Optimism
  3. Zest
  4. Curiosity
  5. The ability to love and be loved

It’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 learn more about how you can learn to be happier, consider calling a coach today. Let’s talk.

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