I’ve always been a glass-half-empty kind of person so when I picked up the book, The How of Happiness, by Sonja Lyubomirsky, which states on the cover that 40 percent of happiness is within my power to change, I actually felt a little, well, happier. Lyubomirsky and her research team at the University of California, Riverside, were awarded a $1 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to research what makes a person happy, what strategies work to boost happiness, and why they do.
What the researchers discovered is that about 50 percent of your happiness is genetically determined. Another ten percent is based on your current situation (Are you in a relationship? Employed? Loving your looks?) And the remaining 40 percent can change based on what you do and how you think.
So to start, I took the “Person-Activity Fit Diagnostic” test to figure out which of Lybomirsky’s 12 happiness boosting activities is the right fit for me. Lyubomirsky’s research has found that the more natural and enjoyable an activity feels, the more motivated you will be to pursue it. The diagnostic test narrows the book’s 12 Happiness Activities down to the four that best suit you.
One of my top strategies was Taking Care of Your Body and Soul, which involves practicing religion and spirituality, taking care of your body with meditation, physical activity, and acting like a happy person by smiling, laughing ... and possibly getting Botox.
Cited in this chapter of the book is an interesting 2006 study, in which 10 depressed women received Botox (botulium toxin A) to their frown lines between their eyebrows. Two months later, nine of the ten women were no longer depressed and the tenth participant was very much improved. Lyubomirsky links the improvement in mood to the idea that if other people perceive you as being happier and respond to you more positively, you do feel happier.
But there might be more factors involved. Perhaps when you look in the mirror and don’t see the results of your long hours of work lodged between your eyebrows, it’s easier to feel happy. Maybe when you look in the mirror and like how you look - even after your child woke you up at o’dark-thirty and it was impossible to fall back to sleep - you have a feeling of control and it’s easier to feel good about life in general.
So, as the Taking Care of Your Body and Soul chapter recommends, I'll keep dancing and taking my long weekend walks, act more confident and optimistic to jump start happiness, and will also be more mindful about seeking out the sacred in my ordinary everyday. I'm not sold on the Botox but I think by focusing on filling up the 40 percent happiness share that's mine to manage, I won't need it. In the meantime, I can't seem to get the lyrics to the "Put on a Happy Face" song out of my head. Might as well sing along.
The blog this month is a quickie since I'm WRITING A BOOK! It will launch on Amazon this summer and the print edition will be released later this year. More details to come in next month's newsletter.
If you're curious about steps you can take to increase your 40 percent happiness share, please contact me to schedule a free, non-salesy sample coaching session. It will be just like a regular session so you can see how I work and so we can discover if we're a good fit for working together. I meet with clients over the phone, via Skype, and at my office in San Mateo. You can also meet me at one of my monthly Saturday Sanctuary gatherings – the next one is this Saturday, April 11th – or you can create your own Sanctuary at your home. I hope to meet you soon.
I'm a mother of two incredible boys, wife to Bill White of Happy Baby Signs, author of the books The Well-Crafted Mom and Signs of a Happy Baby, and an intuitive life coach. I like to blog about my adventures with my family and the life lessons I'm learning along the way. I hope you'll join me on this journey.
Check out our past newsletters by clicking the link below.