Last week I started the Yale online class to learn ways to achieve lasting happiness through scientifically proven methods, a 6-week workshop on Coursera.com. I really enjoyed doing the assessment tests to find my happiness base level, and learn what my strongest character strengths are. This week, we learned about the misconceptions of things that we think makes us happy.
Take a moment to think about what would make you happy. Is it having a good job? Making a lot of money? Having good relationships? And afford to buy nice things? The lecture went on to show studies done for each one of those goals, many of the tests span over 20 years to see how people’s feelings change for the better or worse. As it turns out, those things that we think will make us happier don’t have much effect on us. For example, you get your dream job, but you’re always stressed out and dread going to work. Or you get a big paycheck but have a lot of debt to pay off. Maybe you are in a solid relationship, but the honeymoon phase is over and you worry you can’t get that feeling back.
In my work, many clients suffer from the belief that owning certain belongings or having a larger home will make them happier. By the time they hire me, I think they have already come to the conclusion that that’s not the case. And studies have shown that those who have materialistic attitudes tend to feel less satisfied in life, and have more mental and health issues.
Some might think genetics has something to do with why we are still not happy when we reach our goals. Perhaps we’re born with a glass half full outlook? Or maybe life happens and it’s out of our control. But Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness, did the research and found that 40% of our happiness is affected by our own thoughts and actions.
I find that to be in direct correlation with the KonMari method: Choosing to keep only items that spark joy for us. By being mindful and surround ourselves with items that spark joy, and showing gratitude before discarding the ones that have served their purpose, our action and thoughtfulness result in a happiness that comes from within. All of my clients have shown more lasting positive feelings about their homes and with themselves after they tidied. By using their own intuition to make decisions, they are not influenced by others’ opinion, advertisements, guilt, or fear. To connect to one’s self (and our character strengths as discussed in lesson one), we can affect our own level of happiness.
This week’s homework is to practice savoring. Savoring is to be present, to step outside and review the experience while it’s happening. And doing so can help keep our minds from wondering, increase our gratitude, and help us remember the good stuff in life. So whether you are drinking coffee, or playing games with your children. Savor those moments and see how it affects your happiness.
If you have any thoughts on this subject, I’d love to hear from you. Thanks for reading!