Raise your Set Point of Happiness

Raise your set point of Happiness and Joy The study of Well-Being, Happiness, and Positive Psychology is gaining ground as our belief in the pursuit of a quality life continues to rise. Happiness is being defined by individuals, organizations, and countries (Bhutan) in much the same way we try to define what makes up a quality of life. In spite of these definitions, happiness is somewhat subjective as someone’s preferences may be your worse nightmare. Poor people in India have often been found to be happier than someone living well in California because they have a strong sense of community.

Just think of your next door neighbor who loves to ride the rapids, where the last thing you want to do is strap on a life jacket and paddle the waves. Somewhere in our DNA, like our weight, there is a genetic “set point” for happiness. Some latest studies on identical twins raised in different environments even shows this genetic disposition might be as high as 50 percent. Given your disposition to be a grump seeing the world half empty or a relative upbeat person, you still have a great deal of leeway at increasing your level of happiness by focusing on increasing your set point. University of Minnesota professor emeritus of psychology David Lykken, PhD, states that your weight set point of happiness is not fixed. It is similar to recalibrating your weight set point to live a healthier life. Lykken states, "The brain's structure can be modified through practice.

If you really want to be happier than your parents provided for in your genes, you have to learn the kinds of things you can do, day by day, to bounce your set point up and avoid the things that bounce it down." Like managing your health, putting into place tools and patterns of behavior can help lift your level of happiness and set point. Think of it as revving up your happiness metabolism. Simple tools to pay attention to range from:

• Enough sleep - 8 hours can make all the difference in your outlook on life. For teens this is especially important as more and more research shows that teens that do not get enough sleep are prone for depression.

• Exercise everyday – 20 min- 1 hour a day can make a huge difference in your life and outlook and will help keep you physically healthier as well and provide you with more energy.

• Nurturing close relationships – Nurture others and they shall nurture back. Remember the old saying, “Give a Hug Today.” Try it you might be surprised. Call someone just to say hello and be nice to those you care about.

• Being grateful – writing a gratitude list, tell someone you are grateful for them in your life or sending a thank you note when it is least expected makes everyone feel good. • Use your best skills in your work (and play). If you are doing work that brings out your strengths you will have a more positive outlook. If you are spending your day not using your strengths, find a way to put them to use in your leisure time or at work.

• Smile and Laugh Last night at dinner we went around the table and told stories of “our worse job.” For 30 minutes nonstop we were laughing so hard we were crying at the funny, odd, and disgusting jobs we had when we were young. (This doesn’t work if you still have the job).

• Act Happy Act as if you are happy. Put on a smile, keep the vision of being happy in your mind, skip, sing, and say Bonjour to everyone you see. Your mood will change, no doubt!

• Forgive others. Being mad gets in the way of happiness. The practice of forgiveness, University of Michigan psychologist Christopher Peterson, PhD, says, is "a trait strongly linked to happiness." A daily moment of forgiveness, then, might be one way to raise your SWB.

• Meditate A great deal of new research shows that meditation does promote higher levels of happiness. Richard Davidson, University of Wisconsin, professor of psychology and psychiatry found in his research that feelings of happiness, enthusiasm, joy, high energy, and alertness are found in high levels of activity at the left frontal area of the cerebral cortex; activity on the right frontal area corresponded to feelings of sadness, anxiety, and worry. Meditation evidentially redistributes the balance, starting more left-brain activity and thus positive emotion.

Overall the research on increasing our well-being, happiness, and joy is showing that the more we focus on the simple things that are in the moment versus the longer term planning the happier and more joyful we are.