My blood pressure recently jumped up a bit when I saw another online story headlining something about the “secret to happiness”. When I see these headlines I have to resist the urge to comment, “There isn’t a secret to happiness.”
It’s true that the science of happiness has come a long way since the Society started in 1998. When the Society was founded the positive psychology movement was still in its research phases and the self-help culture from books, to talk radio, to TV shows, to traditional support groups focused more on what was wrong than what was right. Science had not started studying or publishing the results of everything that’s known to increase our happiness including relationships, pets, exercise, and gratitude just to name a few amongst the hundreds if not thousands of science meets happiness studies we’ve done to figure out what makes us happy or happier.
But happiness regardless of the science is still an individual experience.
For example, I don’t like to sweat. So even though running is scientifically proven to boost my happy endorphins, the truth is that it’s a sweaty exercise and that doesn’t make me happy. I may be satisfied which is a type of happiness because I did something good for my health, but any happy gain is minimized because I’m annoyed that I stink, have to take an extra shower, and feel gross. Now for someone else, sweaty exercise is exhilarating. It’s a happy moment that they look forward to participating in. Therefore sweaty exercise equals happiness. The point is that our happiness is individual even when there’s science behind it.
The reason I don’t believe in “a secret to happiness” is that it implies if you do something right you’ll be happy and if you’re not happy it’s because you’re doing something wrong. Happiness is both simplistic and complicated. We crave and seek happiness. Happiness fills a hunger of the soul but can be as elusive as a rainbow’s end. Happiness happens in the midst of unhappy experiences and unhappiness happens in the midst of happy experiences. To prove my point, there’s rarely a funeral without smiles and laughter, and there’s rarely a wedding without moments of drama sprinkled with chaos.
Many of our happiest moments are not recognized when we experience them. Instead they are remembered in hindsight or in moments of nostalgia. If you’re looking for happiness, fully live in the moment and recognize happiness when it happens. We just created the Happiness Counter to get you started.
Don’t get me wrong, I love that the science of happiness confirms so many things that not-so-secretly happy people have always suspected about living a happy life. A couple of my favorite books about happiness and science are 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People by David Niven, Ph.D. and The Myths of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D.
But if you’re still looking for a secret to happiness look in the mirror. You are the secret to your happiness. Your happiness starts and ends with you, but here are three things to do every day that will enhance your happiness:
- Notice your happy moments.
- Do more of what makes you happy.
- Learn from your experiences that make you unhappy.
Happy counting because happiness happens ~ you just need to notice it.