Is Happiness a Choice?

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The Happiness Question

Have you ever wondered why some people remain upbeat and positive despite the chaos that surrounds them while others are utterly miserable even in good times?  What explains the difference between these two groups of individuals?

Are happy people just lucky people born happy? And unhappy people born miserable?  Or is happiness a choice we make day by day, moment to moment?

The answer to this question is twofold. On one hand, 50% of happiness is predetermined by biology (e.g., inborn temperament) while the remaining 50% is influenced by life circumstances and intentional activities.

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The Happiness Formula

As stated above, research indicates that approximately 50% of happiness is genetic (e.g., temperament), 10% is life circumstances (e.g., income), and 40% is intentional activities (e.g., daily exercise, meditation, forgiveness).

Though we may have little control over genetics and/or life circumstances — we do have personal agency when it comes to intentional activities. Be it a walk around the block, gardening in the backyard, or simply relaxing by the fire.

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Being an optimist (and a positive psychologist), I tend to focus on the parts of life where I have influence. For both myself, and the people around me.

Even though you might not be the happiest (or healthiest, or richest, or most zen) person in the room, you (like me) have room (potential) to grow and expand – no matter your life circumstances or genetic make up.

The Happiness Webcast

In the webcast below, I explore the happiness formula (genetics vs. environment) in more detail. Including: 1) the developmental origins of happiness, 2) how individual differences in personality affect happiness, and 3) the paradoxical relationship between traumatic life experiences and happiness (posttraumatic growth).

Happiness Talk

Click on  Is Happiness a Choice Webcast  to learn more.
The video is in webcast format so it requires Adobe software.
It will run on your computer, but might not work on your phone.

The Happiness Choice

  1. Embrace your freedom to choose intentional activities within your control (e.g., gratitude, helping others, fitness), and the power to let go of what is not (e.g., the past, the opinion of others, the weather).
  2. Celebrate your one-of-a-kind happiness determinants. Do not compare it to your brother or your sister, or to a neighbour or a (facebook) friend. FOMO is the “thief of joy”. For what determines your happiness is unique to you, and only you.

“If positive psychology teaches us anything, it is that all of us are mixture of strengths and weaknesses. No one has it all, and no one lacks it all.”

Related Post: Happiness in One Word

Who are you?

Self-awareness is the starting point for personal success. Until you know who you are, how will you know what truly motivates you?

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Reawaken your passion for work and life by reflecting on “Who you are“.

  • How would you describe yourself in one word?
  • What are 3 of your strengths?
  • What are 3 of your challenges?
  • When do you feel most alive?
  • What is your favourite movie? Book?
  • What is your dream job?
  • What is your dream place to live?
  • If you could have 5 minutes alone with anyone (dead or alive) who would that be? What would you ask them?
  • Do you prefer being indoors or outdoors?
  • What is (was) your favourite subject in school?
  • If you could own any car, what would it be?
  • What character trait is most important to you?
  • What makes your heart sing?
  • Do you prefer spending time alone or with people?
  • What is your favourite ice cream?
  • Are you a morning or a night person?
  • What is your favourite song? Band?
  • Finally… How do you define yourself at the very core of your existence?

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How will you thrive today?

So many choices when it comes to stress relief.

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Which one will you choose today?

Psychology Today Checklist ⇒ Are You Thriving? 🌷

Harnessing positive energy.

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The next time you’re tempted to complain about the same thing (over and over again), direct that same (frustrated) energy into your highest, loftiest goals. Consciously swap one complaint for one baby step towards your dreams. Same energy required. Magically different results. 🎈

Related Post: Set a time limit on negativity.

Stressful Times. Empowering Lessons.

 Question your stress. It has a lesson for you.

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1/ Identify a stressor / challenge in your life. Be specific.

For example: Not enough money. Too busy. Lack of sleep. Pushy relative.

Your Answer: ______________________________

2/ What is this stressor / challenge trying to teach you?

For Example: Slow down. Change jobs. End a relationship. Get help. Breathe.

Your Answer: ______________________________

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3/ How did you overcome challenges in the past? Be specific.

For Example: Trusted myself. Reached out. Held on. Said no. Moved on.

Your Answer: ______________________________

4/ Which strength will help you overcome current challenge?

For Example: Faith. Patience. Positivity. Reflection. Connection. Laughter.

Your Answer: _______________________________

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5/ List positive results of mastering this stressor / challenge.

For Example: Enhanced self-esteem. Less negativity. More authenticity.

Your Answer: _______________________________

What empowering lessons have your stressors & challenges taught you?

There will always be critics.

Use their words as motivation.

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A glimpse of my psychology lecture on student motivation and success.

The world needs your unique kind of wonderful. So don’t let the critics get you down. Focus on your dreams. Not their doubt. Use their words as fuel for your success and empowerment. The sun always rises. And so will you. ☀️

Related Post: Face it - you're strong!

Students First.

I love writing about psychology as much as I love teaching about psychology. And that’s a lot!

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Psychology is my passion.

Students are my purpose.

Which is why I take every opportunity I have to support and encourage student success and development.

At the end of the day, I have one priority:

Students First.

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Your Turn:

1. What are you most excited about in your life right now?

2. How do you make your passion and purpose a daily priority?