But there are certain habits that have been shown to be consistent among happy people. Happy people devote time to family and friends. They practice gratitude. They practice optimism. They are physically active. They “savor life’s pleasures and try to live in the present moment,” as Lyubomirsky puts it.
But the point remains that once our basic needs are met — lodging, food, etc. — the relationship between money and happiness becomes purely theoretical.
Keep a daily gratitude journal for seven days; take a survey to determine your signature strengths; get at least seven hours of sleep for three days in a row.
This rewirement, though, involves a fundamental reassessment of what happiness is and how it works — not just how to achieve it but whether it’s something that we even “achieve.” Because there’s excellent evidence that it is not.
Gilbert makes the somewhat radical claim that happiness isn’t something we chase or achieve but rather something we manufacture. In other words, you don’t find happiness — you make it.
Happiness, in the end, is a mind-set to be cultivated, not a condition to be imposed. By the time students complete the course, Santos hopes that they’ll not just be happier but also have a variety of tools that enable them to take control of their happiness.
“A lot of people think of happiness as a very, very exciting emotion. They expect it to be this constant state of ecstasy — as opposed to equanimity, which is a more sustainable and attainable form of happiness, almost like a quiet joy. It doesn’t look like winning the lottery. It looks much more like sitting quietly and noticing that your life is actually wonderful.” —Hedy Kober, Yale University
“One thing people get wrong about happiness is they focus on the extraordinary instead of the ordinary. We think that happiness comes from big or transformative experiences, but we neglect how we can spend moments in happier ways on a daily basis. All my research says that the best way people can be happier is to spend $40 on a time-saving service. Instead of fighting with your spouse over who should do the laundry, hire a laundry service. Forgo that time fighting to make a meal together or go for a walk with the person you love.” —Ashley Whillans, Harvard Business School
One of today’s most common loops goes like this: cue = boredom, routine = pull out smartphone, reward = a few moments of empty stimulation. So try this: Next time you feel the boredom cue, leave your phone where it is and consciously choose a reward that contributes to well-being. Two of the best rewards, happiness-wise: starting a conversation with a stranger or being more present in the moment.