The other week the International Day of Happiness was celebrated with great enthusiasm, particularly on social media. For my part, it got me thinking again about the nature of happiness and why some people seem naturally so happy. Are we all born with a set level of happiness or can we realistically set out to make lasting changes to how happy we feel most of the time?
Positive Psychology researchers have been looking at these ideas for years and believe that the answer is probably “yes” to each of my questions. It is thought that the recipe for a person’s happiness is likely about 50% genetic tendencies, 10% circumstance and 40% intentional activities.
That figure of 40% is the really exciting research finding! It’s the evidence that people can increase their personal happiness through simple but deliberate positive activities.
As Mums there can be a lot going on that we can’t easily control but that impacts strongly on our happiness. On a typical day lots of little frustrating things can happen even without a major stressor. I therefore find it really encouraging that deliberately choosing a positive activity such as expressing gratitude, thinking optimistically or doing something kind for another person has been shown to increase happiness in a lasting way. Those are activities and attitudes that we can control!
It is a reality that despite all attempts to promote happiness, sad/bad stuff does happen. In this situation, positive psychology research shows there is a clear benefit to talking about the negative experiences or events as a way of creating a story around the event which can help you to adjust. So we encourage you to have that cup of coffee while debriefing a friend or relative on what’s been going on.
In the weeks ahead we encourage you to try out these theories by:
- Carrying out 3 acts of intentional kindness each week OR
- Once a week writing a list of things that have gone well OR
- Seeking out companionship if something negative happens
We hope you’ll notice an increase in your levels of day to day happiness.
Best wishes from Flourishing Mothers
(Adapted by Flourishing Mothers from the work of Sonja Lyubomirsky.)