Happiness – is it a choice?
It’s become popular to tell people to “just be happy”, and that being happy, or not being happy, is “all a choice”. I’m a big proponent of the power of choice, but I’ve never felt that happiness was as simple as choice.
It seems that Sonia Lyubomirsky, a University of California Psychology professor, thinks the same way – and she has almost two decades of study to support her conclusions. Lyubomirsky says that half our happiness is determined by genetics – something we can’t change. The rest of happiness is 10% about life circumstances (which we may or may not be able to change at any given time) and 40% about things we have control over: our thoughts, our behaviours, attitudes, habits, goals, and the things we choose to do.
So, it seems we do have control, we can choose – to a degree. Fifty percent is a signification amount of power, both the half we can change, and the half we can’t. Those who’ve won the genetic lottery have a major head start on being happy, and they won’t have to work as hard to be very happy. Others will find it takes a lot more concision effort, and carefully watching what they choose.
Now let’s bring this into your marriage. One of you is more genetically predisposed to being happy – possibly a lot more predisposed. If you are more given to happiness, DO NOT get down on your bride for not doing what comes naturally for you. You can easily make it worse, or cause her to think, “why bother”. On the other hand, if you can accept her limitations, you will be in a better place to help her to make choices that will lead to her being happier. Know that it’s more difficult for her, and praise her efforts. If she is the one more predisposed to being happy, try to help her understand that you have to work harder at it, and ask her to help you rather than judging you.
Props to Tim Brownson for leading me to Sonia Lyubomirsky.
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