HAPPINESS IS NOT A DESTINATION
Many people think of happiness as a destination or acquisition -- whether it's marriage, money, or a move to a new location. Sure, things like these can contribute to happiness, but not as much as you might think -- only about 10% of your whole happiness picture, Lyubomirsky says.
If you've done the math, you now realize that about 40% of your happiness is in your hands. Lasting happiness has more to do with how you behave and think, which you ultimately control more than many of life's circumstances.
Robert Biswas-Diener, MS, founder of Meridian Life Coaching LLC and co-author of Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, agrees.
"Happiness isn't the emotional finish line in the race of life," he says. It's a process and a resource. Biswas-Diener says there's a mountain of data showing that when people are happier, they become healthier and more curious, sociable, helpful, creative, and willing to try new things.
"Happiness is not just an emotional flight of fancy," he says. It's beneficial for the long run, serving a real function in our lives.
In psychological lingo, this is called the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions, says Michael A. Cohn, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher with the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.
Cohn recently conducted a study with 86 college students who submitted daily emotion reports. The researchers measured the students' ability to flexibly respond to challenging and shifting circumstances and used a scale to assess life satisfaction. The study showed that positive emotions increased resilience -- skills for identifying opportunities and bouncing back from adversity -- as well as life satisfaction.