The Secret of Happiness


'If only we'd stop trying to be happy we'd have a pretty good time.' - Edith WhartonIt is one of life's greatest myths that our happiness is dependent on our external circumstances. Of course, if we're worrying about our day-to-day survival, then our happiness levels are likely to be lower compared to others who can comfortably pay rent, put food on the table and have money left over to spare. However, once our survival needs are met, it seems that happiness really does come from within (not that new sports car).Positive psychology guru Martin Seligman and his colleague, Ed Diener, studied over 200 undergraduate students and tested their happiness levels. When they compared the bottom 10% (i.e. the unhappiest students) with the students whose happiness levels were in the top 10%, they found very little difference in the number of objectively positive events that happened to these students.Other studies have shown that humans are incredibly adaptive to life circumstances and events. We each have a 'happiness baseline' that might be shaken up occasionally by either positive or negative occurrences, but it's a baseline that we return to eventually, when we've adapted. Even huge events, like marriage, divorce or death tend to make little difference to people's long-term happiness levels. Of course, it might take longer for someone to adapt to these events but, with few exceptions, we always return to that baseline.Happiness is the one thing we all want, the thing we spend most of our lives striving to achieve. What would happen if we could stop trying to achieve it and just be it?There's more on happiness in this interview with psychologist Lynn Ianni:Happiness And How To Get It: The Therapist:What Is Happiness?