Being happy isn’t always easy. Humans are complicated creatures and although our brains might be capable of performing wildly complex tasks, they can also sabotage our well-being.
“Not everyone is going to be naturally happy all the time,” Sonja Lyubomirsky suggests. As a professor of psychology at UC Riverside, she has devoted her career to the study of happiness: what is it, what it does, and why does it exist.
Her studies have investigated two components of happiness: cognitive (a sense of satisfaction with life) and emotional (the raw experience of joy). For many of us, experiencing these two components simultaneously is rare, but according to Lyubomirsky, “there are certain strategies we can all use to maximize our happiness.”
To uncover these strategies, Lyubomirsky and her team designed a series of experiments called “happiness interventions.”
In one of these studies, one set of volunteers was asked to keep a gratitude journal once a week, while another set was asked to do so three times a week. Those who counted their blessings once a week exhibited a marked increase in happiness – but those who did so three times a week displayed no such uptick. Lyubomirsky speculates that for the latter group, gratitude became a chore or, worse, they ran out of things to be grateful for. The initial burst of happiness was thus deflated by monotony and irritation.
In fact, much of Lyubomirsky’s work explodes common myths and misunderstandings about happiness.