Sonja Lyubomirsky’s research has revealed that only 10% of happiness relates to life circumstance i.e. things like where you live, how much money you earn. This is surprising as we can often fall into the trap of thinking when I get that promotion, fall in love, have children etc. I will be happy. The reality is we return to our normal happiness set point after a period of time. The research found that 40% of our happiness actually relates to the intentional activities that we choose to engage in. It found that ‘Happy people actively and intelligently pursue (behavioural) activities and (cognitive) attitudes that are intrinsically rewarding and in line with their broader sense of purpose’.
What we choose to think and do has a huge impact on how happy we feel. I find it so liberating to know that we have within us the ability to increase our happiness by asking ourselves what thought in this moment would be more empowering, what actions can I take that will support me to feel happier. Through questioning our own moods and temperament instead of blaming circumstance or someone else, we can support ourselves to live happier lives.
For example, I used to find it really difficult to be seen to get things wrong. I carried a strong belief from childhood that being wrong meant you were less than or ‘stupid’. As a young child I was often wrong at school and felt great shame. How I spoke to myself when I got things wrong affected how I felt and behaved in the classroom and later in life it affected my personal and work life. I was helped to understand why I found certain things so hard on receiving the news at the end of my schooling that I was mildly dyslexic but it didn’t shift my core belief and sense of vulnerability. Through coaching I examined and began to challenge my own thoughts and was supported to see the impact my thinking was having on own levels of happiness.
Like all humans I still get things wrong but I no longer hang my head in shame; I seek out constructive feedback so that I may learn. This change in thinking has opened me up to much more effective ways of communication, new progressive experiences and the added bonus of greater successes. When I feel myself slipping back into old ways of thinking I remind myself ‘Just because you think it, doesn’t mean it’s true’ and ask myself what would be a more helpful or empowering way of looking at this.
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