Experiments in Happiness

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.

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4 thoughts on “Experiments in Happiness”

  1. As your research shows it is true that people feel happier if they are a givers rather than being a receiver. But then you have to give because you want to. If you would do it sincerely then happiness will follow. I believe that happiness comes from within. If you have a depressing/negative attitude towards life, it will make you and everyone around you unhappy / dissatisfied with everything. But if you choose to always try and find the good/positive side of a situation you will be at peace and live forever happy…

  2. I believe that being happy is a choice and it comes from the inner person(heart).If you do not allow your heart to receive happiness you will never feel the happiness in you. You do not have to rely on other people for your own happiness.I agree that happiness of givers last longer than the one for receivers, but this only happen if you giving with your willing heart.

    I now do not agree that couple with children are less happier compared to the one with children, because if this was the case there would not be any adoption in this world, I mean we all want to be happy. This shows that children bring happiness in the family.And there are many people who are wealthy and they look happier than the one who are not,and there are also many people who are not wealthy but they live happier than wealthy ones.This also shows that being happy is not about what you have is about the attitude you have towards happiness.

  3. There’s no singular recipe for happiness

    Happiness is a choice, but lasting happiness is a life style. The experiments done on generosity, gratitude and family all contribute to happiness. Although without positive psychology you can give your most prized possession, be thankful for a grain of sand and have 20 kids and still be unhappy.

    When preforming any experiment, keeping all variables controlled except for the variable being observed is important. therefore looking for people that treasure generosity and performing an experiment with them, will give you a more accurate understanding of the relationship between generosity and happiness. The same for gratitude and family.

    Each individual is unique and therefore has their own “thing” that makes them happy, which only they can discover. Therefore there is no single recipe for happiness, but there are basic guide lines. Here are some, keep moving and never give up, discover meaning in what you do, work with your strengths, treasure gratitude, mindfulness, and hope. These many seem like cliques, but at least they are something to hold on to.

    Kineta Travern

  4. Happiness is not just an emotion, it is a decision. If one decides to be happy there will be a lot of benefits. The perception is that happiness is based on your circumstances and therefore people expect their surroundings to determine their happiness level. True happiness comes from within a person and is based on the decision to be happy, instead of outside influences stimulating them to be happy. The saying that goes “ It is better to give than to receive”, was confirmed by Sonja Lyubomirsky in an experiment where the level of happiness recorded in the givers where higher than those who received the kindness. The givers remained happy and more fulfilled for a longer period of time than the receivers. But for one to be happy in giving you need not to see it as a chore, more of a act of kindness. The conclusion is that anyone can be happy if he/she chooses to do so and remembering that external influences does not bring lasting happiness.

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