In this article, we discuss how much control we have over being happy and dive into some science-backed techniques that can help you in creating your own happiness.
Imagine you had access to a genie. You get three wishes, right now; what would you wish for?
The popular answers are health, money, fame, success — maybe a date with your lifelong crush.
Another popular answer is happiness.
We tend to think of happiness as something that we’ll hopefully obtain someday.
The fact is that every single one of us has the capability to create our own happiness.
Is it harder for some people? Absolutely.
But every single person reading this can do a few small things every day that can have a massive impact on creating your own happiness.
Take the Wheel
Having someone tell you that you are in control of your own happiness doesn’t always feel good.
“You don’t know anything about my life, you have no idea what I’m going through.” This a completely legitimate and truthful response.
Scientifically speaking, happiness isn’t just something that happens to you. It’s also something cultivated by you.
“There’s a misconception that happiness is built-in and that we can’t change it,” says Laurie Santos, a professor of psychology at Yale University.
“The science shows that our circumstances — how rich we are, what job we have, what material possessions we own — these things matter less for happiness than we think,” Santos says.
There is some disagreement in the scientific community about exactly how much control we have over happiness. Some say it’s around 40%, others insist it’s much higher.
One study on happiness suggests something quite fascinating: the most influential factor is that if you believe you can take certain actions to control your happiness, you will be happier.
With that in mind, here are 3 science-backed ways to be happier.
Get Your Gratitude Game Up
When we say practice, we mean it.
Feeling grateful goes against the brain’s default mode of thinking. We’re wired to see the negative, it’s part of what has kept our species alive for so long.
Arianna Huffington, CEO of Thrive Global says “Gratitude works its magic by serving as an antidote to negative emotions. It’s like white blood cells for the soul, protecting us from cynicism, entitlement, anger, and resignation.”
Practicing gratitude is easy, it just takes time. This is a good place to start.
Treat Yourself…With Compassion
An overwhelming collection of research suggests that self-compassionate people suffer less and thrive more.
We often talk about how being kind to others is the key to being happy. Doing nice things for others boosts serotonin levels in the brain. So much so, that you can experience something known as a “helper’s high” which is chemically similar to a “runner’s high.”
Self-kindness is a newer, less studied piece to the happiness puzzle. However, a meta-analysis of almost 80 studies published in 2015 put it simply: People who are kinder to themselves also tend to be happier.
You can learn more about the importance of self-kindness and try some exercises here.
Although mindfulness can technically fall into the category of self-kindness, we think it’s so important that it deserves its own section.
Human brains are designed to wander. There isn’t a single one of us out there who doesn’t have a wandering mind to some degree.
Mindfulness puts us back in the moment — and that’s where all the good stuff in life happens.
To that point, we can use mindfulness to actually enjoy our lives more.
A good way to strengthen the skill of mindfulness is with short, guided exercises.
Once you believe that you have control over your happiness, you can start to take action on some of these techniques.
We only outlined three for you today, but there are dozens of techniques and exercises that can help you take control of your happiness.
One of our most popular exercises of all time focuses on noticing negative emotions and switching to positive ones. You can check it out for free right here.
We also dive into happiness in this week’s Podcast.