Happiness impacts our health. And our health impacts our happiness. It’s the chicken or the egg. Which comes first?
Lucky for us, a big chunk of the happiness pie is controlled by us.
Yep, roughly 40% of our happiness is controlled by our actions, thoughts and behaviors.
Our genes determine 50% of our happiness – depression, anxiety or having an optimistic-by-nature personality can be partially contributed to our genes.
Lastly, and personally surprising, only 10% of happiness formula is determined by circumstances. Whether we’re diagnosed with an illness or hit the genetic lottery, a rather small percentage of our happiness depends on the circumstances around us.
We adapt. We adjust to circumstances over time.
As cliché as it is, happiness is more about a state of mind, and less about a pile of cash and a creamy complexion.
1 + 1 = Happy
Happiness is how satisfied you are with your life.
Happiness is how good you feel on a day-to-day basis.
Happy is Healthy
Happy people are healthy people.
Happy people have lower heart rates, blood pressure and lower rates of cardiovascular disease.
Happy people are less likely to have long-term health conditions, like cancer and chronic pain.
Happy people have lower levels of cortisol and stress.
Happy people have less aches and pains and heal faster.
Happy is Less Stuffy
According to 30 studies, happy people are less likely to get sick.
Happy people recover faster when sick.
In a study of law students, happiest people produced more antibodies to battle a foreign invader. And as their optimism increased, immune function increased, too.
Happiness Myth #1
Happiness is NOT feeling good all the time.
Like a roller coaster, what comes up must come down. Research suggests that an even-keeled mood is healthier than highs and lows. What makes people happy is less about feeling good all the time, and more about meaning – whether that’s a relationship, career or a spiritual practice.
Happiness Myth #2
Happiness is NOT being rich or affording everything you want.
Making more money does make us happier, to an extent. A Princeton University study found that once your salary hits $75,000, making more money won't have much of an effect on your day-to-day happiness. When we get raises or make more money, in time, we adapt to the new increased budget and our happiness levels again.
Happiness Myth #3
Happiness is NOT a final destination.
Getting a promotion, getting married – the excitement of milestones fade. Happiness is practiced day-to-day.
What is Happiness, anyway?
Happiness is Gratitude
Showing gratitude, whether it’s writing in a journal or telling someone you appreciate them, can increase happiness levels by 25%.
In this study, people who practiced gratitude by writing down 3 good things that happened to them each day for 1 week:
Felt happier and less depressed for up to 6 months
Reported better sleep quality
Were more likely to engage in healthy behaviors like exercise
Happiness is Relationships
Having regular contact with 10 or more friends significantly increases your happiness.
Also, when people spend 6-7 hours with friends or family, they’re 12x more likely to report being happy. Think about how happy we are on the weekend!
Spend money on experiences rather than things. A fancy new watch fades. But people are always changing. New coffee shops, new restaurants – experiences will always be different!
Happiness is Meaning
People of all ages report being happier when they have meaning in their life. Whether it’s a career, spiritual practice, raising children or centering yourself around core values, meaning can be defined in many ways.
Happiness is Positivity & Optimism
Whether it’s diabetes, cancer or pain, studies show that an optimistic outlook help people more effectively deal with illness and disease.
Having the belief that you can develop and grow into a different person can unlock your happiness potential. To the contrary, having a mindset that you are fixed – that your qualities and talents can never change – is binding and suffocating.
Imagine you are trying to work out and eating healthier.
You could say : “I slept in 3 days this week, I'm so lazy, I’m never going to get in shape.”
Or, you could say : “I got up early 2 days this week to exercise, I’m doing a great job!”
You could say : “I didn’t pack my lunch 2 days this week. I can never do anything right.”
Or, you could say : “I packed a healthy lunch 3 days this week! Keep it up!”
See how much better you feel just reading the 2nd option!
Comparison: Comparison is the thief of joy. When we compare what we have to someone who we perceive has more, we feel bad. Guilty. Angry. Resentful.
Lack of close relationships: We’re social animals. We are meant to have close relationships where we can confide and feel supported.
Holding onto resentment: Let it go. Seriously. Holding onto past done-me-wrongs will only fester.
Happiness in 10 Minutes or Less
- Practice Relationships : Brighten a friend’s day -- bring them flowers or a cup of coffee
- Practice Gratitude : Send an email or text -- thank someone or let them know you’re thinking about them
- Practice Meaning : Have a meaningful conversation with your sibling or spend 10 minutes truly focusing and playing with your child
- Practice Positivity & Optimism : Recall a delightful vacation and think about your next one planned
Happiness is controlled largely by us. And if we're serious about our health, we've got to get serious about our happy.
Now, go write that thank you note!