Friday, January 25, 2008

How To Be Happy - Practical Advice

According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of "The How of Happiness", we are not complete hostages to our genetics. Happiness is 50% inherited, 40% up to us, and 10% stressers out of our control. She came to this conclusion using data from research on identical and fraternal twins. This goes against previous wisdom that said happiness is controlled by genetics and life circumstances. Lyubomirsky says we can be happier by using simple 'happiness intervention strategies'.

She had test subjects write letters of gratitude, perform acts of kindness and keep 'best possible selves' journals to outline future goals. Up to nine months after the study ended, the people involved said they had kept up the techniques on their own and were significantly happier than in the past. These techniques put into practical terms the principals of the 'Secret' and positive thought theory.

Here are a few other options to create happiness that Lyubomirsky says will enhance your daily life. They are common sense ideas that we so easily forget in our rush to be, do, and have.

Don't overthink, she says. When you catch yourself stewing over some situation or hurt...STOP. These negative, worrisome thought processes are like poison to your body and mind. If you just have to worry, set aside no more than 30 minutes in the evening to ruminate. Chances are when the time comes, the situation bothering you will have worked itself out or seem less consequential.

She tell us to learn good coping skills. Write down (purge) traumatic experiences or talk to someone about them. Learn how to argue with or negate pessimistic thoughts. Don't dwell on negative self-talk.

Savor life's joys, Lyubomirsky teaches. Relish ordinary moments of happiness and pleasure, like a good meal or a hot shower. Stay in the moment and truly experience the good in your life.

Cultivate optimism by finding ways to celebrate the good things that come your way. Instead of telling others about your bad day tell them about the good things that happened. If we choose to see them they are there. Have parties and celebrations just because...the baby took his first steps, you paper trained your puppy, or your daughter got an A on a difficult test.

Be joyous and laugh whenever you can. And for heavens sake, laugh loud and strong, feel it in your gut. Let go every now and then and just be plain silly. Be a kid.

Try it, then share with me the techniques you use to change your mood or to celebrate your bliss. I'd love to hear them.


Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Lisa,
You know I think you're brilliant, and I read your articles with fervor, but I'd increase the amount of happiness that is up to us to about 75%. As a former police officer I saw and dealt with an awful lot of miserable people; and I only talking about police officers here. A huge portion of the cops I worked with were stressed out, self destructive/abusive (alcohol), and just plain depressed. The other portion of the cops who weren't clinically depressed or miserable had very dark outlooks on life in general. Much of this was in their control to turn around. Yet, many cops (myself included) choose to wallow in misery than to cope. It took many years of self rehabilitation to "civilianize" myself and adjust my attitude and humor to somewhere around normal after I left the job. There is a high rate of alcoholism and suicide in the police department, and much of it can be nipped in the bud early on with a simple positive outlook instead of concentrating on the negative. Maybe I'm too close to the topic to be subjective as I know cops who have killed themselves over stress and anxiety, and others who've ruined their lives and families with alcohol abuse and gambling (a diversion). But, in my humble opinion, much of the problems with happiness comes from ones own view of the world. Thanks for letting me chime in. (Go Obama!) -Mike.

Lisa McGlaun said...


You know, I agree with you. These statistics came from the author of the book. These were her findings during her study. I tend to believe we have much more control but I didn't inject that into my post.

I know that police and civil servants have extremely stressful jobs and day after day experience the worst of what society has to offer. We are so indebted to people like you.

It is within all of our control to determine how we are going to feel and react to our lives. I am a very optimistic person but I wonder how I would react in a job like yours. I dont' know. I'm am so emotional I'd either have to quit or become like a rock with no feelings to survive.

God bless you and all those who do what you do.

And, oh yeah, right back at ya..GO OBAMA!


Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Lisa, I left the job due to a serious medical condition nine years ago. I went out and got an education and I now work as an Information Technology Administrator in a small college here on Long Island. Being out of the law enforcement milieu has saved my life. I have no regrets for joining the police department; but it literally almost killed me. Thanks for your support of the police, but the NYPD needs some serious changes in its culture to change a lot of the problems officers face. I could write a book about it. Thanks again, Lisa. -Mike.

Lisa McGlaun said...


I guess I didn't realize that you were out of law enforcement. I'm glad you have found another career that suits your needs. IT..the field is exploding with opportunity these days.

Do I hear a hint at a book? You should write it if you feel passionate about it.

Best Wishes,

Untreatable said...

With all of the negative that I deal with on a daily basis thank you for the reminder that there is another side. Keep up the good work

Lisa McGlaun said...


Thanks. It's nice to know I'm making a small difference in the world. Keep coming back if it helps you...:)

Best Wishes,

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