What are the myths of happiness?
Decades of research on the science of happiness shows that there’s a big – and potentially life-altering – difference between what you think will make you happy and the things that actually do, argues psychology professor Dr Sonja Lyubomirsky, in her fascinating book The Myths of Happiness. If you buy into any of the following myths (and nearly all of us do), read on to find some refreshingly creative strategies to boost your bliss.
Myth: The right marriage will provide endless happiness
Science says: The average person picks up a sizeable boost in happiness when he or she gets married, but this only lasts about two years. After that, the former newlywed reverts back to his or her happiness level before the engagement.
Boost your bliss: Delight in your partner’s good news. According to Lyubomirsky, “the closest, most intimate, and most trusting relationships appear to be distinguished not by how partners respond to each other’s disappointments, but how they react to the good news.” When your husband shares that he’s getting promoted, reacting with joy and asking enthusiastic questions signals that you care. Being silently supportive or pointing out downsides (“Oh, you’ll have to work on weekends?”) undermines happiness.
Myth: Your “dream job” will make you happier at work than you currently are
Science says: You adapt to all new experiences, and so any joy from a new work environment will likely fade with time. If you’ve gained responsibility, your expectations and aspirations will increase too, which can detract from happiness. One classic study tracked job satisfaction before and after a voluntary job change among high-level managers whose average salary was $135,000. Researchers found that managers experienced a burst of happiness right after the new job, but within a year, satisfaction plummeted to their pre-move levels.
Boost your bliss: To avoid taking a new job for granted, Lyubomirsky advises “re-experiencing” what it was you didn’t like about your previous work. If you used to make a lot less money, spend one week a month living on your old salary. If you worked nights, periodically make yourself stay at work late. Mentally transporting yourself to where you didn’t want to be will help you find more happiness in your current role.