The Three Happiness Myths

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Jaywalking to Happiness

The Harvard and Stanford educated psychologist Dr Sonja Lyubomirsky shares three happiness myths that everyone should stop believing right away, from her book, The Myths of Happiness.

Prof. Lyubomirsky says, “What should make you happy, but doesn’t. What shouldn’t make you happy, but does.” That’s the basic premise of her book — to dispel the erroneous ideas about what really doesn’t make us happy, but we think they do.

Happiness is rarely as good as we imagine it to be, and rarely lasts as long as we think it to be. Click To Tweet

Do You Trust These 3 Myths of Happiness?

Happiness Myth #1. I won’t be happy until I get a promotion or land my “dream” job

Think back to the moment when you were hired at your current job—you probably felt a big boost of well-being, and you were excited by the opportunities and challenges of your new role. Unfortunately, the excitement we feel happens less and less as we turn our minds toward the countless daily hassles, uplifts, and distractions of life.

We begin to feel our novel and stimulating work experiences have simply become our “new normal.” This is due to a psychological phenomenon called hedonic adaptation.

Happiness Myth #2. I’m going to lead a sad, lonely life because I’m single

Do you often find yourself imagining a solitary life, sitting by the window all by yourself? Erase that picture from your mind.

People who remain single have lives of incredible value and purpose. They are useful to and caring of their friends, siblings, extended family members, communities, jobs. They are often dedicated to some great cause. In fact, research has found that when compared to their married peers, the single people tend to be closer to their siblings and cousins.

Not only that, they keep developing new friendships as they age. They also stay in better touch with their friends.

Happiness Myth #3. I’ll never be a doctor or an astronaut, so I can’t be happy

We all have dreams since the early years of our lives, but we often have flawed assumptions about whether we can still be happy despite not achieving those dreams. Psychologists argue that to be truly unburdened by regrets involves freeing ourselves from our “lost possible selves”—the neurosurgeon self, the grandparent self, the small-business owner self.

To do this, we need to reflect on our lost promises to gain a new perspective, which in turn, enables us to understand ourselves and our lives better, and to set new priorities and envision new futures for ourselves.
Nothing in life is as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it. - Daniel Kahneman Click To Tweet
Sonja Lyubomirsky is Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside. Her book The Myths of Happiness argues that we have been given false promises — myths that assure us that lifelong happiness will be attained once we hit the culturally confirmed markers of adult success. This restricted view of happiness works to discourage us from recognizing the upside of any negative life turn and blocks us from recognizing our own growth potential. Our outsized expectations transform natural rites of passage into emotional land mines and steer us to make toxic decisions.

And here is a video by Russ Harris, author of  The Happiness Trap, on the three myths of happiness:

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