I spent much of my early life believing that my happiness was dependent on external circumstances. Whether I was in a happy relationship, if my job was rewarding, how my health was. So when I first heard about the research of Sonia Lyubomirsky I simply couldn’t believe it. Her work suggests that half of our happiness is determined by genetics; 40% our daily life experiences and choices, including how we see the world; and only a meagre 10% is based on life’s circumstances. That meant I could no longer blame my unhappiness on being unmarried with no children! Her research found that people therefore have a strong capacity to determine their own happiness. Nowadays this is obvious to me, but when I was younger it just didn’t compute. I now think about ‘choosing happiness’ as opposed to thinking of it as dependent upon external goings on.
Today’s Hint was one of the very first exercises I did many years ago on a happiness taster day with Founder of The Happiness Project, Robert Holden. He suggested our small group attempt to ‘choose’ their happiness level on a daily basis. This seemed a crazy idea to me. How could I do this? I was unhappy. Life was tough. I was at the bottom of my rollercoaster loop. However, I am always up for a challenge and, however bad I feel, I will give something a go. That first morning I crawled out of bed and dragged myself into the shower. That man must be mad I thought. I am a 3/10 today. I don’t want to be a 3/10, but if I even suggest to myself a 4/10 then that seems like a mountain I can’t climb. Still, I thought don’t push yourself just go for that 4. I made my decision and determined to stick to it. Surprisingly that day turned out to be a 4.5! So I continued with this exercise for a month and by the end of it I was a 6.5 – which let me tell you was no mean feat. Nowadays, I find this exercise easier. I’m able to go for higher numbers and (most of the time!) enjoy my day. Even when I feel like a 3 as I emerge from below the duvet, I try to ‘choose’ to be happier.
To quote Robert, “From zero to 10, how happy have you decided to be today? Can you find the place in your mind where you have already made a decision about how good today will be, and how good this year will be and how good your life will be? CHOICE IS A POWERFUL THING! More of anything or everything will not make a difference to your happiness score until you consciously choose to be happy. Therefore, set an intention to be happy today. Decide to make today even more enjoyable than you thought it was going to be.”
Give it a go. Pick your number out of 10 today. And follow through on it. If you can, keep it up until the end of the 21 days. Enjoy!
Please click here for further research on Choosing your Happiness.