I found out early in life that I am way happier when I practice certain things–like exercise, and letting go of things I can’t change.
Science actually now agrees that greater levels of happiness are attainable through practices that change how your brain functions. Neuroplasticity is a big word to simply say that the brain is able to change.
Here are some things that are now scientifically proven:
1. Your Set Point
Each of us is born with a happiness “set point” around which our happiness level tends to settle, regardless of what happens to us. Research suggests that genetics determine about 50 percent of this set point and environment determines the other 50 percent. But you have much more power over your happiness level than you probably realize, because only a small amount of your environment is out of your control (things like the weather and the stock market). This means that you have control over 40% of your happiness level. Own this fully. Intentionally make choices that make you happier.When you make positive changes in your self and your environment, you raise your disposition toward happiness.
2. It’s as Much About What You Don’t Want as What You Do Want
It’s much easier to decide what you don’t want than what your really, really, really want. Once you know what you don’t want, figure out what the opposite looks like. “I don’t want to be out of shape” may become “I want to be toned and workout five times a week so that I can enjoy my life.” When you learn to avoid the things that lower your happiness set point, it will naturally rise.
3. It’s About This Moment
We are not very good at predicting what will make us happy or how long that happiness will last. Studies show that there is a gap between what we believe will make us happy and what actually does – a big one. We tend to overestimate how things will affect us, thinking we’ll be much happy when we get something we want. Major life events (positive or negative) lose their impact on happiness levels, often as quickly as a few months. For example, lottery winners settle back into their pre-winning level of happiness and paraplegics become happier after they process their loss.
Focus on happiness here and now, not some day in the future. You will naturally stabilize toward your set point – and there are many things you can do to get there more quickly.
It is only possible to live happily ever after…on a daily basis.
4. The Bigger Picture
There is a lot to be said about using your strengths in the service of something larger than yourself. Volunteering or helping another is a powerful tool to bring yourself more happiness.
But I bet you instinctively knew all of this. The real issue is the daily practice. Because as with any lasting improvement, the magic is in the everyday discipline …