Guest Blog courtesy of Joanne Dowds MISCP
I love sharing bits of info that I have picked up and this past week was particularly full. As part of a diploma I am currently doing, I touched on the science behind happiness… it was news to me that we all have a happiness set point, an inbuilt level of contentment. Whether this point is determined by nature or nurture I’m not sure, as an adult you have a baseline level of happiness and this point accounts for about 50% of your life satisfaction, regardless of what happens you will default to this position. If you are optimistic you will generally have a more positive outlook on negative events, viewing them as transient and overcomeable, and vice versa. The other 50% that determines our life satisfaction is made up from the impact of external events or your environment (10%), in a positive way like winning the lotto or negatively like illness; the remaining you generate by doing things that make you happy. That’s a huge 40% that each of us has complete control over! This is good news. It is a bit like having an account in a bank, you can lodge your happy events so that when you need a bit of help, due to trying times, there is a surplus in store and during trying times that you know what to do to make life a bit more tolerable. Since hearing about this I have been spending some time thinking about what makes me happy and the good news is mostly its free and relatively simple things- the sun shining, being warm, live music, people watching in a coffee shop, the smell of lavender, baths, wine and chats. I know what makes me happy, events, things, people, places that bring me joy. I know that through movement, I feel strong, more confident, this makes me happy, yoga gives me peace. I can bank these experiences knowing that I can draw down on them during difficult times in the future (and there will be one around the corner (its the sine wave of life) there will be a surplus of happy, waiting. The next few months, my happiness account is going to get regular lodgements- possibly more than my actually bank account!
A second point of interest is that there are 24 common character strengths and knowing what they are can have a positive impact on you how you move through the world. There are several ways to find out where your strengths lie -though a questionnaire (www.VIAcharacter.org) or self reflection. (I did the questionnaire, while there were 120 questions it was more objective!). The result is a list of all 24 essential character strength rated from strongest to weakest. My top 3 are honesty, humour and curiosity. It’s true that if someone or something hits 2 or 3 of these values they will have my complete attention. If I suspect that I am being misdirected, left bored by repetition or dull conversation there is a place I go where the lights are on but there is no one listening. There is a flip side to each of these strengths, as family and friends will attest -truth isn’t always the kindest or easiest thing to hear, humour isn’t always the most appropriate communication style and well…. curiosity did kill the cat! Also of note is the lowest ratings of my strengths were self regulation and prudence. I have the rubberiest of elbows, given the option I will generally succumb to at least one vice! But (and thanks to the lack of self regulation I do have a big one 🙂 I can use this knowledge of how I work to understand myself better, to frame future goals and using these strengths to ensure I do my best to achieve them. Honesty – exercise helps my mental state, keeps my body strong, keeps my head in my body, in the present moment. I feel better when I eat well- truth. I will try just about anything once- finding new ways to move or feel better is always of interest. Self regulation isn’t a strength but honesty is and the truth of the matter is longer term goals are more worthwhile, more satisfying that short term gratification, the quick burst of serotonin from chocolate or whatever vice I’m thinking of indulging is entirely counterproductive. If I want to stock pile that happiness I was talking about earlier, moderation is key. But don’t tell the publicans or rice crispie square makers I frequent.