Seven habits of highly unhappy people

happy thoughts

In his book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey shared how having deliberate and mindful habits can help you be successful in business.

So to with happiness.  Psychologists who study happiness say that genetics and life circumstances only account for about 50% of a person’s happiness. The other 50% is driven from attitudes and habits.

Sometimes it’s easier to recognize what makes you unhappy than happy. Here are seven habits to avoid or to watch for to help you be more happy:

  1. Being pessimistic. Nobody likes a pessimist. What’s worse, pessimism can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think the glass is half full, it will be.
  2. Focusing too much on yourself and not on others. If you think you are the only one with problems in the world, think again. Thinking and doing things for others will help you take your mind off your own problems and make you feel good about yourself.
  3. Seeing yourself as a victim. This kind of goes hand in hand with #1. You are in control of your own destiny. Don’t blame others if things go wrong.
  4. Not having goals. If you don’t have goals, you’re at risk of stagnating. Even if it’s just to learn a new recipe or getting more exercise, having a goal will give you purpose and make you feel good when you achieve it
  5. Focusing only on the future and forgetting about today. The happiest people find joy in life’s little moments and the gifts of each day.
  6. Overreacting or stressing out over little things. This is a tough one if you are prone to stress or anxiety, but if you can find ways to roll with life’s challenges, you will be more balanced and happy.
  7. Retreating into yourself. It’s great to spend time alone, but studies show interacting with people and having positive relationships are critical to happiness.

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”

This week’s #HappyAct is to avoid these seven unhappy habits. Have a happy week.


Measuring our Gross National Happiness

Bhutanese childrenWhat if, instead of measuring our Gross National Product, we measured our Gross National Happiness?

It’s not as crazy a concept as you think. In fact, there is one country that has made their Gross National Happiness a priority. Bhutan has been measuring its Gross National Happiness since 1972. The GNH is based on the philosophy that if the government cannot create happiness for its people, then there is no purpose for government to exist.

The GNH of Bhutan is based on four pillars: good governance, sustainable socio-economic development, cultural preservation, and environmental conservation and nine domains to ensure the happiness of its citizens: psychological wellbeing, health, education, time use, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity and resilience, and living standards.

A person is considered happy if they have sufficiency in six of the nine domains.

Here are a few interesting facts from the Bhutan GNH:

  • The happiest people by occupation in Bhutan include civil servants and monks.
  • Interestingly, the unemployed are happier than corporate employees, housewives, farmers or the national work force.
  • Unmarried people and young people are among the happiest.
  • Men tend to be happier than women

The 2015 GNH survey showed an increase from the 2015 in their overall GNH from 0.743 to 0.756 with 43.4 of the Bhutanese people being deeply or extensively happy, and 91.2% showing sufficiency in at least half of the domains.

I’m not sure I’m willing to leave my corporate job to become a monk, but there are many things we can learn from Bhutan’s GNH.

First, we need to put a priority on the happiness of people. As a nation, we need to measure how well we are doing at creating the right conditions for our citizens to be happy. And finally, North Americans need to relinquish our obsession with work and material things and go back to the basics. Things like spiritual wellbeing, being physically active and healthy, and developing strong communities.

Tomorrow, March 20th is the International Day of Happiness. This week’s #HappyAct is to measure your own GNH. Of the nine domains Bhutan measures, how do you score? Leave a comment.

The three types of happiness

Quote from Aristotle: Happiness depends upon ourselvesPart 4 on the science of happiness

Are we consumed with the pursuit of happiness? ” Jamie Gruman of the Canadian Positive Psychology Association thinks so. He calls it “happyology”. If you consider this blog and the scores of books and articles telling us how to lead happier lives, you would be hard put to argue with him.

Earlier this year, I discovered an underlying science to this blog: all my posts fall into three categories of happiness.

  1. Hedonic: originating from the Greek philosopher Aristippus, hedonic happiness are acts that allow us to experience as much pleasure as possible while generally avoiding any painful experiences.
  2. Eudemonic: the pursuit of personal fulfillment, purpose and realizing your potential.
  3. Halyconic: to live in the moment and accept life without ambition to achieve or acquire more.

Most of us are familiar with hedonism, the pursuit of pleasure. It was Aristotle who challenged Aristippus’ definition of hedonic happiness. Aristotle believed that hedonic acts, while temporarily satisfying, would not result in long-term happiness. He believed that happiness depended on the cultivation of virtue, and the realization of our full potential as humans beings.

Gruman says halyconic happiness runs counterintuitive to everything we are taught. Go forward, be ambitious, live an active life, set goals and focus on achievements. What happened to just live in the moment? 

Some psychologists maintain that instead of focusing on happiness, we should focus on well-being, which is defined as the extent to which we feel comfortable, healthy, and satisfied with our lives.

What’s the difference? A person might use drugs or alcohol to feel happy, but this is a short-term emotion and has serious consequences for their physical and mental health and will likely lead to unhappiness.

In my very first blog post, I wrote that the phrase, “the pursuit of happiness” is hogwash. Happiness is not a destination. You don’t find it or achieve it. Happiness is a state of being, a continuum.

This week’s #HappyAct is to continue on this journey with me. Join me in the ongoing exploration of what it means to be happy, one hedonistic, eudemonic or halyconic happy act at a time. Bonus act: Help me realize my eudemonic self by sharing this post.

The science of happiness — Part 2

Who do you think is more happy? Lottery winners or paraplegics?

The answer might surprise you. Instead of giving it away, this week’s #HappyAct is to watch this Ted Talk by Dan Gilbert, the author of Stumbling on Happiness.

Gilbert challenges the idea that we’ll be miserable if we don’t get what we want. In fact, our “psychological immune system” lets us feel truly happy even when things don’t go as planned.

The reason why is based in science. As the human brain evolved, it developed a part called the pre-frontal cortex. The pre-frontal cortex allows humans to simulate experiences, and imagine what something will be like in their head before trying it in real life.

This allows us to synthesize happiness, and as Gilbert says, synthetic happiness is every bit as real and and enduring as natural happiness.

Pete Best, the original drummer for the Beatles was once quoted as saying, “I’m happier than I would have been with the Beatles.”

Being happy with our lot in life is a lesson we can all learn.

Read the Science of Happiness Part 1—to what degree is our happiness pre-ordained?