What Makes You Happy?

Can you believe researchers actually study this?  But they do.  And it's a fast-growing, lucrative area of science.

Molly Petrilla at smartplanet.com recently interviewed a psychologist, Sonja Lyubomirsky, who has written several books about this, and how she herself tries to keep, well, happy.

One of the first topics Lyubomirsky talks about (can she really be happy with that name?) is the fact that there's no such thing as a dream job. Sorry to disappoint you all out there but what makes people happy in their jobs is excitement and passion, and that only lasts so long.

"We’re not hard-wired to be passionate and excited all the time. In fact, we probably wouldn’t want to be because it would be hard to get things done. But our expectations are way too high. I talk in the (new) book (The Myths of Happiness) about a lot of people who are constantly in search of the ‘dream job.’ And there is no dream job," Lyubomirsky tells Petrilla in their interview.

The psychologist says when we get a job, we often "get a boost in happiness," because it's new and exciting.  But over time this wears off. "All of us are going to adapt," Lyubomirsky tells Petrilla. "We’re not going to be as passionate about our jobs on the second or fifth or tenth year as we were the first year."

Lyubomirsky puts a lot of happiness down to one simple thing: something new.

So how do you get happy?  Is it a course you can take or a book you can read, music to listen to?  In the end, it's pretty easy.  Be grateful for what you have.  Every day think of three things that make you happy, the psychologist advises.  It's hard to be down when you're thinking of stuff like that.

Also, help others.  I know, years ago, when I was out of work the first time, I volunteered at a center for children with severe disabilities.  These kids had it so hard -- and were so happy and cheerful -- that it didn't take long for me to realize I had it pretty good.  (I also met the person who gave me my dream job -- oops, forgot we can't have that -- through his wife, who also volunteered.)

Life is hard and sometimes -- maybe even often -- it's hard to be happy. But it's really your choice.  One thing that got me through treatment for breast cancer was, indeed, gratitude -- that it was caught at an early stage, I didn't need chemo, I would be here for my son, after all,  and I had a 99.9% chance it wouldn't come back.

But when it did, I was so used to being grateful that I stepped right back into it (actually, it never went away) and that's one of the best things I've ever been handed.  I'm grateful every day that the sun is shining, my cherry tree bloomed longer than a day this year.  That I'm alive.

A lot to be happy for.

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