The How of Happiness is a comprehensive guide to understanding the elemetns of happiness based on years of groundbreaking scientific research. It is also a practical, empowering, and easy-to-follow workbook, incorporating happiness strategies, excercises in new ways of thinking, and quizzes for understanding our individuality, all in an effort to help us realize our innate potential for joy and ways to sustain it in our lives.
How happy are you and why?
Any major life-changing endeavor must be accompanied by considerable sustained effort, and I would especulate that the majority of people do not or cannot continue putting out that kind of effort. What’s more, all new happiness-enhancing endeavor or health-boosting strategies have something in common; each one bestows on the person a specific goal, something to do and to look forward. Moreover, having goals in and of themselves is strongly associated with happiness and life satisfaction. That’s why–at least for a time–any new happiness strategy does work!
There is no happiness without action
In a nutshell, the fountain of happiness can be found in how you behave, what you think, and what goals you set every day of your life. ‘There is no happiness without action’. If feelings of passivity and futility overcome you whenever you face up to your happiness set point or to your circumstances, you must know that a genuine and abiding happiness is indeed within your reach, lying within the 40 percent of the happiness pie chart that’s yours to guide.
Three ways that strategies can fit
When it comes to determining which happiness strategies will work best for a particular individual, I believe in taking an idiographic, or personalized approach. The goal is person-activity fit. When you choose wisely, you will feel motivated to try a particular happiness activity, persist at it, and experience its rewards. It goes without saying that a person needs to make an honest effort in trying a new strategy in order to achieve any benefit.
However, even the most ardently pursued activities won’t bring happiness for every single individual. One of the chief reasons that many of us fail in our efforts to become happier is unfortunate choosing, picking a strategy or approach that is either inherently fruitless or not well suited to us. A good person-activity fit can be achieved in a number of ways. These ways, described below, can work independently or in concert. Let’s consider all the options.
1. Fit with the source of your unhappiness
The first approach is to contemplate what underlies your own unhappiness. Leo Tolstoy famously opened Anna Karennina by declaring: ‘Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ As a psychologist who studies individuals, not families I prefer the following restatement, which has its own truth: ‘Happy people are all alike; every unhappy person is unhappy in his or her own way.’ The research bears this out; there are many varieties and sources of unhappiness. Each individual is unhappy for a unique constellation of reasons.
2. Fit with your strenghts
Person-activity fit, however, does not have to be based on repairing your specific weaknesses. Alternatively, you can start by identifying your strengths, talents, or goals. For example, an achievement-oriented person may do well at pursuits significant life goals or taking up competitive sports as a way to boost his happiness, while a creative person may choose to express gratitude or forgiveness through painting or writing.
3. Fit with your lifestyle
Think about the extent to which the activities you choose can be adapted to your needs and lifestyle. For example, if your life is stressful and hectic, then you can choose activities (like counting blessings) that don’t take extra time out of your day. If you are satisfied with your relationships, but not with your work, then you can choose activities that can help you enjoy your job more and pursue novel opportunities. If you’re not spiritual or religious, then you can pass on the religious strategy. If you’re a lifelong practitioner of concentrative meditation, then you can opt out of the happiness activity that involves meditating.
Complement The How of Happiness with 7 Life lessons from Marcus Aurelius.