“A man is about as happy as he makes up his mind to be.” — Abraham Lincoln
Are you happy today or sad? Soon that will change because, like all of us, you have a happiness set point, a baseline to land on when your emotions even out. But psychological research has discovered that we can raise our happiness set point.
When we fall in love, inherit money, have a miraculous healing or get that dream job or dream home, our happiness level rises—but it doesn’t stay there. Within six months we sink back down to our happiness set point.
Now, if the one we love rejects us, or we lose a lot of money, receive a dreadful diagnosis, get fired or evicted, our happiness level goes down. But within six months we rise back up to our happiness set point.
According to The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, by Sonja Lyubomirsky, several factors determine this set point. Genetics influence 50 percent of it. Current life circumstances make up only 10 percent. So married or single, homely or knockout gorgeous, sick or well, at home in a shack or a mansion makes little difference. That’s because we adapt easily to our circumstances. So genetics and past circumstances make up the 60 percent of the happiness equation that we can’t change.
Control forty percent
We can control the other 40 percent, which compares to the number on the scale that our fluctuating weight eventually falls into like a trap door. We can maintain our weight set point with diet, exercise and determination. Only drastic surgery can alter that set point. But with our happiness set point, we can change our baseline. To benefit from this free therapy:
- Don’t take things for granted.
- Create bursts of enthusiasm.
- Stop brooding.
- Distract yourself with positive influences.
- Live in the present.
Gain 25 percent with gratitude
One practical suggestion was to write or say 3 to 5 things we are thankful for every day for three weeks. Studies prove our happiness set point can rise as much as 25%. Rather than focus on what disturbs you, aren’t you happier when you focus on your blessings? So make a list. Soon you will become the positive influence that enthusiastically lives in today’s blessings.
As Catholic Christians, we have a higher Source to bring our happiness up a notch. How happy are you when you are thankful for all God has given you? When you give freely of yourself and your resources without counting the cost or expecting payback? When you rejoice in who you are in the Lord?
I challenge you to raise your happiness set point with this spiritual remedy: Praise the Lord, thank him without ceasing—or for as long as it takes you to list your blessings. Do this faithfully at least once a day for three weeks. Then the next time you come down from a temporary high or rise from a temporary low, you will settle at a new happiness set point, a new high in the Lord.
“Believe that life is worth living, and your very belief will help create the fact.” —William James
What are you willing to do to be happier?
(© 2013, revised 2016 Nancy H C Ward)