Many myths surround the concept of happiness. Here are a few of the most common:
The quality most Americans believe would make them happy is money. It doesn’t! Yes, enough money does make people happier, there is nothing good about poverty, but when a family has an income of $60,000 a year or more, money makes no difference in a person’s happiness. Enough is enough.
Marriage? No. Men have better health when they are married and are slightly happier than unattached men, but women are only happy in what they consider a good marriage, and even then there is little difference in the happiness of married and unmarried women.
Some people are just born happy? Not really. There is a very small percent of people who are happy all the time, but overall happiness takes effort and intent. Those who are happy work at being happy.
Good health? Yes, but it is number 11 on the list of the top 15. When happy people are ill, they are likely to make the best of it.
Some people’s lives are easier than others? Research has repeatedly shown that happy people and unhappy people have the same life experiences. Happy people’s lives are riddled with illness, death, disaster, disappointment, and hardship in the same numbers, and with the same severity as unhappy people. The difference is that happy people recall events and experiences with fondness or humor, or at least with an “oh well” rather than an “oh no.”
It is easier to be unhappy than happy? No. Being unhappy is as much work and effort as being happy. It may feel easier just because it is a familiar habit. Unhappy people tell certain experiences over and over with drama, conviction, and intense emotion, as though their experience is of terrible, unjust events rarely experienced by humankind.
The truths about how to find happiness are surprising in that they are within anyone’s grasp. It is a matter of seeking joy, celebrating everyday successes, and emphasizing the good! Here is what researchers report:
• Small day-to-day measures outrank “big bang” events.
• Sex and having fun with friends outranks housework and watching TV (no surprise there!).
• Having fun is not as important to happiness as helping others.
• The single most important factor in happiness is not what we do, but what we think about what we do, and who we think we are.