Where does happiness come from? According to one study (Lyubomirksy, Sheldon and Schkade), it’s 50% genetic, 10% due to circumstance and 40% due to how we respond to circumstance.
You obviously can’t do much about the 50% genetic component – although if other people seem happier, it may help to accept that they may just have better “happiness genes.” Being jealous of them won’t make you any happier!
It’s interesting to compare the remaining components: 10% due to circumstance, 40% due to our response to circumstance. So you can get four times as much happiness from changing your mind as you can from getting the perfect house, partner, car, job, etc etc. I guess that’s why mindfulness is so popular right now.
In 2003, Emmons and McCullough invited people to spend a few moments each week writing about things they felt grateful for. They became happier and more optimistic – and they even exercised more and became physically healthier.
In Brief Mindfulness courses we encourage people to write down 3 things they feel grateful for every day. This simple exercise, taking perhaps one minute a day, helps overcome the negativity bias inherent in the human brain. With practice (some sources suggest 3 weeks) you actually rewire your brain and become a happier person. (For a few more tips on how to make this effective, download “Alive at Work” from the sidebar).
In another experiment, people were asked to commit 5 non-financial acts of kindness each week, for 6 weeks. Everyone who did so found themselves happier as a result. But those who committed their weekly 5 “Random Acts of Kindness” all on the same day became 40% happier.
Could today be that day?