I have heard that finding the right job can make you happy. I have also heard that finding the right person to spend your life with can make you happy. But I have always wondered... what is the formula for happiness and why are some people so happy regardless of their circumstances and others seem to be unhappy regardless of how good they have it?
I began to wonder about this when I met a person who had a great job, lots of money, a very attractive spouse, a great car, and who seemed to be unhappy. I had always assumed that achieving the things we were pursuing would be what brought happiness. So, I began to search. I read books on happiness, watched videos, and even looked into the neuro-chemical production of happiness in the brain.
Like most things, it turns out that humans have a psychological "set-point" for happiness. You have set-points for things such as wealth as well. A set-point is the level we have chosen to program our subconscious mind to achieve. It is a belief about ourselves that manifests itself in our conscious awareness. In research conducted by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced Me-hi Chick-sent-me-hi), he looked at the creation of the happiness set-point and found the breakdown of how the mind views happiness.
50% of your happiness was passed down in genetic memory from your parents. If your parents spend their life being unhappy, then roughly half of your cellular memory of what life is supposed to be will be that of seeing the glass half empty. 10% of your happiness or lack there-of comes from your circumstances. This really surprised me, but also gave me a lot of hope. He analyzed people who had been wounded in battle and lost limbs. The vast majority of them went back to the same level of happiness they had experienced roughly 12 months before the loss. He also looked at people who won the lottery. Within 12 to 18 months, the majority of them went back down to the level of happiness they had prior to winning lots of money. So what that tells me is that regardless of winning lots of money or suffering great loss, we have a tendency to be the same 'happy' as we were before the major shift in circumstances.
The last portion of his research was what gave me hope. He indicated that 40% of happiness was a choice we made every day. If we have that level of control over our happiness, then we have the ability to shift our perspective when we desire to do so. This isn't as easy as simply deciding to be happy, though. There are a few things that we must do in order to shift our perspective.
The first is to physically carry ourselves as if we are happy. Hold your head up high, body posture open, and facial expression demonstrating happiness. This begins to shift the chemical production of the brain to support happiness because the physiology of a person controls the emotional state of a person. Second, we must use the right language. Spend your time affirming yourself, talking about positive things and saying positive things. This is accomplished by shifting your focus away from negative and/or depressing things and toward positive things. Control the inputs into your life. Listen to happy music. Read positive books. Watch motivational speeches on YouTube. Go out of your way to stay away from things that tell you the world sucks and your life is horrible. Chase down the right focus and inputs.
Doing these things are a disciplined choice and often not that easy. I get it. I have battled against depressed thoughts. I have fought my own demons attacking my mind and my focus. The battle is for more than just focus though. The battle is for your joy and your happiness in life. You have control over 40% of your happiness automatically. This can shift the view of the 10% circumstance in your life. Staying positive can also modify the genetic set-point that you pass along to your children. You are battling for the happiness of yourself as well as for the happiness of the next generation of your legacy. Choose joy!
Hold yourself as if you are happy. Use positive language about yourself and others. And finally, keep your focus on positive things. You've got this!