For decades, scientists believed that every person is stuck with a basic “set point” on their happiness thermostat. And even big, life-altering events, like marriage, divorce, or getting a new job may affect you for awhile, but eventually you return to your previous happiness set point.
But according to the Associated Press, recent long-term studies have revealed that our happiness level is more changeable than that. In fact, the good news is, most of us are happy most of the time. For example, people who have reasonably good health and a decent income will rate about 7.5 on a happiness scale of zero to 10.
But outside forces can negatively or positively impact your happiness on an almost permanent basis. For example, researchers at Michigan State University found that serious personal problems can lower your happiness set point and keep it there for years. And on the flip side, constant positive input can banish depression and boost your happiness to a higher level. So, here’s how to increase your long-term happiness:
- First, each day, think of 3 good things that happened, and analyze why they occurred. In a recent study, volunteers who kept “gratitude journals” noticed a lot more good things, which made them feel happier and more satisfied with their lives.
- Next, list your personal strengths. Like curiosity, enthusiasm, appreciation, a good sense of humor, and a love of learning. Then, find a way to apply one or more of those strengths in a new way every day. For example, grab your curiosity and ask a colleague what was the most amazing thing they discovered on their recent trip to China. You might discover you have a lot more in common than you thought.
Bottom line: Happiness is a process – not a place. After all, the story doesn’t really end when the Princess finds her Prince. “Happily ever after” is a lifelong journey.