Call to Action 3 | Happiness (backed by science.)

Science shows us that we can influence 40% of our happiness. Let’s better understand this and get super intentional about living our best lives.

The sustainable happiness model pic[1] [5]

I’m not going to preach about gratitude, since I think the billion-dollar Self Help Industry is fulfilling this role. I am going to talk about happiness and where your power lies in improving your life (and how gratitude can definitely help you out.) As this study has shown, our happiness is influenced by three factors. While we cannot easily change the first two, we have total control over the last.

  1. Our Set Point (50%)
  2. Our Life Circumstances (10%)
  3. Our Intentional Activities (40%)

Happiness is something we all strive for, yet it doesn’t look like many of us are achieving enough of it. This map makes that pretty clear – there are absolutely no countries shaded in purple on it [2]. Even if we settled for blue or dark green (a 7/8 out of 10), it still isn’t looking too good.

happiness-cantril-ladder.png

You may have noticed something: In many cases, the wealthier countries are happier. Has this just blown my whole argument? No. And here’s why.

In a study, it’s been shown that “that more wealth means more life satisfaction, but only “up to a point” [3] . In the lives of people who are living in poverty, money and their life circumstances allows them access to basic resources (water, simple food, shelter etc.), which their happiness is certainly dependent on. This is why “the strongest effect of national incomes on life satisfaction is seen in the poorest countries” [3]. When people are no longer in poverty, their circumstances play a very small part in their life satisfaction. Therefore, so long at you’re not in poverty, the statement that you can influence 40% of your happiness and life satisfaction, still applies.

 

Myers describes happiness as “a lasting sense that life is fulfilling, meaningful and pleasant” [5]. So, where do you feel your happiness levels are at, on a scale of 1-10? If you’re like me (along with basically everybody else) and are not always at a perfect 10, I’ve got us a couple of remedies.

How we can achieve greater happiness:

“…happiness can be boosted by behavioral intentional activities, but that both the timing and variety of performing such intentional activities significantly moderate their impact on well-being” [1].

So basically, we have the power to influence our own happiness and we can do it through making a habit of doing a few really simple activities.

I’ve intentionally added gratitude and visualisation to what I do in the mornings. Most of the benefits lie in doing these activities often, so try associate them with things you already do – brushing your teeth, making dinner, driving etc. This will help you to make a habit out of them.

A study shows that gratitude positively impacts your happiness, since it “promotes the savouring of positive events and situations,” while it also allows you to “see the good in life rather than taking it for granted” [1]. Let’s use our power of gratitude to live better lives!

Call to Action

  • Write an Appreciation Letter

While gratitude has been showed to positively impact happiness, more specifically, it’s been proven that the “intentional activity of letter writing can make a difference in well-being” [5].

Also, there is “a robust literature… regarding writing as a vehicle for managing depression” [4]. I can’t and don’t want to make any claims about chronic depression. However, there is evidence supporting the use of “letters of gratitude as a way to reduce depressive symptoms” [4].

So, here’s your call to action! In light of my previous post about the magical people we spend life with, write three appreciation letters in three weeks. This is an activity, similar to the one done by the participants of one of the cited studies. Write to a friend, a family member or teacher. Or maybe you’d like to do something more abstract – write to a public figure, a deceased loved one, your Creator or Mother Nature.

If you have written to someone who is able to receive your letter, maybe you’d like to share it.

“Gratitude appears to be a powerful and preexisting resource that when utilised can produce positive effects upon well-being” [4].

  • Visualisation

Visualisation seems to be another way in which we can increase our happiness. The authors of this study, specifically spoke about “the practice of visualising and writing about [our] best possible selves” [1]. They stated that this kind of visualisation helps to increase happiness, since it makes us feel more optimistic about our future options and allows us to consider our “priorities and life goals” [1]. So ask yourself some questions:

If I had a wizard or fairy god mother to help me, what life would I create for myself?

Who am I and what do I do as I live out this dream life? 

Why is it meaningful to me?

What am I proudest of, while I’m living as the best version of yourself? 

What makes this life situation everything that I have always wanted to experience? 

If I had to give my present-self advice, what is the first step they could take in order to be in this position in the future? 

  • Reliving our happiest memories

This isn’t about dwelling in the past, but about using our most precious memories to help us out. But in this case, we shouldn’t be analysing these too much. It’s all about “replaying or reliving positive life events as though rewinding a videotape” [1].

Screen Shot 2018-10-27 at 13.38.38.png

Why does it work?

  • Through doing these kinds of activities often, you’re obviously thinking happy thoughts and keeping them at the forefront of your mind more than you normally would.
  • Through these thoughts, your “motivation to become happier” also increases, which increased your well-being [5]. You now have more drive to actually experience and live out your best life.
  • Through the use of these activities your “expressions of gratitude” will hopefully have “time to manifest” [5]. In these situations, your life is shifting for the better, which clearly helps you to feel happier and experience increased well-being.

 

I hope you’ve found reason and practical ways to intentionally work towards your happiness. It really is something that you can influence and change for the better.  I’m wishing you great amounts of gratitude, ah-ha moments and happiness as you work towards living with more satisfaction and well-being.


References:

[1] Boehm, J., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2009). The Promise of Sustainable Happiness. In  (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology. : Oxford University Press,. Retrieved 27 Oct. 2018, from http://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195187243.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780195187243-e-063.

[2] Esteban Ortiz-Ospina and Max Roser (2018) – “Happiness and Life Satisfaction”. Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: ‘https://ourworldindata.org/happiness-and-life-satisfaction’ [Online Resource]

[3] Fisher, M. (2014, January 14). ‘The Bliss Point’: The happiest countries are rich, but not too rich. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/

[4] Toepfer, S. M., Cichy, K. & Peters, P. (2011). Letters of Gratitude: Further Evidence for Author Benefits. Journal of Happiness Studies, 13(1), 187-201.

[5] Toepfer, S., & Walker, K. (2009). Letters of Gratitude: Improving Well-Being through Expressive Writing. Journal Of Writing Research1(3), 181-198. doi: 10.17239/jowr-2009.01.03.1

Featured Image: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-woman-looking-at-the-mirror-774866/

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