5 Unexpected Ways to Get Happier, According to the Latest ScienceBy Nancy F. Clark
If you want to be happier but believe your current situation (or perhaps your past) is keeping it from happening, then I’m happy to inform you that scientists think you’re wrong about that. It turns out your genetic make-up and your life circumstances add up to only about 60% of your baseline happiness level. Although this number varies from person to person, what's important to keep in mind is that the rest is up to you and your thoughts, actions, and behaviors.
When it comes to boosting happiness, here are 5 commonly believed myths that may be fooling you.
1. "I need to relax. I should take my vacation right away!"
You may be thinking, “I need to take a vacation right away. That will definitely make me happier.” Well, if the vacation turns out perfectly—everyone gets to do what they want, the weather is wonderful, nothing unwanted happens, and you return fully relaxed—then you could be right. But there’s something you could do differently to make yourself much happier starting today.
Right now, you could schedule your vacation for 6 months or even 1 year from now. Then, every day you can think about it and savor little bits of what's to come. Dr. Loretta Breuning says this triggers the happy brain neurochemical dopamine. Dopamine is that "feel good" chemical you get when you’re anticipating a reward. Research also shows that people feel happier in the weeks and months leading up to a vacation than they do during the actual vacation itself. Take a look at your calendar and start making it a point to enjoy those daily pre-vacation mood boosts today.
2. "I should be carefully practicing gratitude every day."
You might think that practicing gratitude every single day is the best idea—for example, writing down 3 to 5 things that make you grateful before you go to bed. In doing research for my book, The Positive Journal, I learned that Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky found that people who journaled about gratitude once or twice a week were happier than those who did it daily. Why? The procedure becomes rote and the brain stops paying attention. Gratitude expert Robert Emmons describes it this way: “We adapt to positive events quickly, especially if we constantly focus on them. It seems counterintuitive, but it is how the mind works.”
3. "That special treat makes me so happy, I should eat one daily."
Your brain pays attention to cha