I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you should have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.
I just finished reading Lyubomirsky’s book, The How of Happiness,and it’s the PERFECT book if you’re starting a happiness project. It lays out the different strategies to pursue to boost happiness and provides the scientific rationale behind each of them.
Lyubomirsky talks about the “40% solution” to happiness. Research shows that happiness is 50% a product of genetics, 10% a product of circumstances (wealth, health, age, marital status, etc.), and 40% a product of the way we think and how we live our lives.
Forty percent is a lot.
I was very interested to read The How of Happiness; for my work on my own Happiness Project, I pulled together much of the same research and devised, in many cases, similar areas of focus. Though I put my own idiosyncratic spin on it.
Doing it myself was more beneficial, because my Happiness Project is perfectly tailored for me and my way of thinking, and more importantly, the process of devising it forced me to think very deeply about my own particular happiness; however, for people who don’t want to spend QUITE as much time on it, this book gives a terrific grounding and a framework for setting forth.
One way this book is different from many books on happiness – whether by philosophers, scientists, or self-help gurus – is that Lyubomirsky emphasizes that different people need to take different routes to happiness. The “fit,” she stresses, is very important.
Absolutely true. That’s why my First Commandment is “Be Gretchen.” I have to pursue happiness in a way that makes sense for me. As Montaigne wrote, “The least strained and most natural ways of the soul are the most beautiful; the best occupations are the least forced.”
I get very annoyed with people like Thoreau who insist that there’s only one route to happiness (which, coincidentally, conforms perfectly with the way they like to live their lives). Or the happiness researchers who say things like “After a person has $15,000, money makes no difference to happiness.” This simply CANNOT be universally true!
So if you’re eager to start a Happiness Project, but you don’t know where to start, or you want to know the scientific basis for various recommendations, this book will be a big help.
Continuing mystery of happiness research: why no happiness researchers talk about the effect of physical environment (e.g., clutter, beauty). If you look in popular culture, people are clearly very preoccupied with this and its effect on happiness – but as far as I can tell, the scientific happiness experts never consider it.
I had a lot of fun with the folks making the documentary Happiness Is. They interviewed me for the movie about “the pursuit of happiness in America.” It’s about to premiere at the SXSW Fillm Festival, and I hope I’ll be able to see it soon here in New York.
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If you’re starting your own happiness project, please join the Happiness Project Group on Facebook to swap ideas. It’s easy; it’s free.