The How of Happiness


Being happy has not been a natural occurrence in my life.  It is something I have had to work at. It surprised up on me when about two years ago in a group of people the words “I’m happy’ came from my lips. Frankly, it startled me at the time. Without a doubt the statement rang true when the words were first formed in my mouth and continue (at least the vast majority of the time). My adopted motto “every day is a good day, some are just better than others” is a truthful statement whenever I speak it (which is often!) although it confounds some people.

Every moment of my life is not spent in some sort of frolic in bliss. Outside of fantasy, delusion or a drug induced state I don’t believe that is possible for anyone.  What changed about my level of happiness from what used to be is inside me. My external circumstances actually became more challenging with much pain and heartache to wade through. Through hard work, intention, help of others, study and understanding I allowed happiness to arrive in my life in spite of what was going on around me.

“The How of Happiness:  A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want” is the title of a book by Sonja Lyubomirsky PhD, a professor at the University of  California-Riverside. In it her research indicates that around 50% of my happiness comes from a generically determined “set point”.  She explains:   The set point for happiness is similar to the set point for weight.  Some people are blessed with skinny dispositions: Even when they’re not trying, they easily maintain their weight.  By contrast, others have to work extraordinarily hard to keep their weight at a desirable level, and the moment they slack off even a bit, the pounds creep back on.

Where I got lost previously was the belief that changing my external situation and location could change my level of happiness.  In her book, Lyubomirsky indicates only about 10% of my level of happiness can be explained by differences in life circumstance or situation.  Of small consequence are conditions such as rich or poor, healthy or unhealthy, beautiful or plain, married or divorced and so on.  It is humbling to realize decades spent attempting to be happier through changes in my external life at best barely had any affect.  I moved all over the country and even to a foreign land, changed wives, lovers, jobs, homes, cars, etc. and none of it had more than a temporary effect.

Sonja Lyubomirsky explains:  One of the great ironies of our quest to become happier is that so many of us focus on changing the circumstances of our lives in the misguided hope that those changes will deliver happiness…  An impressive body of research now shows that trying to be happy by changing our life situations ultimately will not work. 

If we observe genuinely happy people, we shall find that they do not just sit around being contented.  They make things happen.  They pursue new understandings, seek new achievements, and control their thoughts and feelings.   If an unhappy person wants to experience interest, enthusiasm, contentment, peace and joy, he or she can make it happen by learning the habits of a happy person. 

In other words, I learned to finally be happy by getting off my butt and seriously working at it instead of searching to find it like a prospector looks for gold.

Gratitude beyond explanation sings in my heart and mind to be where I am today.  To everyone and everything that helped me get here… THANK YOU!

The Constitution only guarantees
the American people
the right to pursue happiness.
You have to catch it yourself.
Benjamin Franklin

Taken from a post from September 30, 2011