When I broke up with my boyfriend in my early twenties, it seemed the only remedy for my broken heart was a new pair of shoes, a new haircut and a new hobby. They were in fact my signal to the world and to my ex that I was a new person, empowered, confident and moving onto better things. Looking back now even when I’m not breaking up with someone – buying a new pair of shoes seems to be my solution for a bad day at the office, an argument with my mum or just simply being bored. My happiness boost. But what seems to baffle me is that this feeling of euphoria as I purchase my Gucci shoes seems so short lived. Why is this? Respected positive psychology scientist Sonia Lymbomirsky found 3 key things that determines our happiness. One is our genetics – which accounts for 50% of our happiness. We all have a happiness set-point predetermined by our genetics. Since we are all different, some of us are just naturally happier than others.
Second, it was found that only 10% of what makes us happy was attributable to circumstance – i.e. being single or married, rich or poor, having children or not – even whether we are healthy or unhealthy. Life circumstances accounts for so little because of what scientists call “hedonic adaption”. This simply means human beings adapt to new life circumstances and experiences very quickly. So when we buy those Gucci heels which we have coveted for so long – we have a spike in our happiness but then we adapt to this circumstance we go back to our normal state. We normalise new experiences.
Thirdly, what accounted for 40% of our happiness is our intentional activities. The simple things we do day to day. Knowing that you can have such a big impact on your own happiness is empowering. It means you can intentionally make yourself happy by doing things. Positive psychology science can shows us numerous intentional activities that we can do everyday that can raise our positive emotions and therefore our happiness. Stay tuned as I share them in following posts.
p.s. Go ahead and buy those beautiful shoes but just know that in the long run it does not bring everlasting happiness 🙂