If you are like most of us, you strive to achieve happiness in most everything you do. We look forward to being happy when we have achieved success, bought the new house, found the right partner, bought the new car, have enough money, achieved the next promotion. But you may have noticed that even when we achieve these goals, our happiness ends up being about the same level as before, or sometimes even worse if you have burned out with the stress of achievement. That is because everyone has a “happiness set-point”: a point at which your happiness returns to, no matter your circumstances.
Research shows that you can win the lottery, be elated for a while, and a year later your happiness will return back to where it was before you won the lottery. Or if you lose your job, you will go through a period of grieving, only to return to your previous level of happiness. Your long-term happiness set-point is not influenced very much by your external circumstances. So getting the new car, the new promotion, or the new partner aren’t particularly effective ways of achieving more happiness long term.
But, you can change your happiness set-point and increase your happiness by changing your mind. In other words, happiness is an inside job. Your happiness set-point is set by the internal thoughts that you practice daily. Yeah, those thoughts, the ones that are saying “I don’t practice any thoughts daily.” The truth is you do practice thoughts daily. About 90% of everything you think, feel, and do, you have thought, felt, and done before. Your thoughts are learned, repeated frequently, and well practiced. And, your thoughts all have emotional content; they are causing you either to be happy or not.
What does it take to increase your happiness set-point?
A practice of having happy thoughts.
Specifically, research shows that if you increase your positive thoughts to achieve 4 positive thoughts for every 1 negative thought, your baseline happiness will go up markedly. Happiness is a practice that you can learn.
The bad news is that if you aren’t practicing happiness then you could be practicing stress or sadness; these emotional states are also due to practiced thoughts just in the negative direction.
The mood states that result from your practiced thoughts, whether positive or negative are contagious. You can ‘catch’ other people’s happiness, or they can ‘catch’ your stress and sadness. If you have been practicing sadness or stress for a long time it can take some time to turn it around, but you will be amazed at how quickly and effectively you can 'catch' happiness with a little push in the right direction.
If you foster self-awareness, you have the ability to choose your thoughts and practice happy thoughts to increase your overall happiness long term. This can also protect you from catching someone else’s negative mood state and armor you with a positive state that shines forth and spreads happiness around you.
It is clear from many studies and ancient wisdom that “Money doesn't buy happiness”, but recent research shows that happier people have more money. So, maybe, the secret to getting all of the things you want is to 'catch' happy first.