I was surprised to find a chapter on ‘Increasing Your Happiness Quotient’ in a book on Professionalizing Your English Language Teaching. Transitioning from a challenging year for many to a new one with lots of uncertainty, I felt this was worth reading and sharing.
The chapter starts with describing the development of positive psychology, which I won’t go into.
They then say that research suggests that three factors influence how happy we can feel, which I had already read elsewhere, and which I find very interesting:
Believe it or not, 50% of the level of happiness is in fact determined by genetics. Seems unfair, but they say that we ‘can lift our set point if we work at it or live at the peak of our range of happiness.’
10–20% of our happiness is determined by circumstances in our life, such as ‘age, gender ethnicity, marital status, income, occupation, and religious affiliation.’ Not much that we can influence there. To me it seems that whether any of these have a positive or negative influence might depend on which society we live in too. For example, in some cultures, older people are valued more, or being a woman is more difficult, etc.
The last 30–40% is where we have the most influence on our happiness, and this is determined by ‘how a person thinks and acts’. (p.56)
‘what we think will make us happier, only in reality has a small effect. We often overlook the true sources of happiness.(p.56)
Many individuals have the false idea that success will bring happiness. But actually, the opposite is true; happiness brings success.’
The authors then list ten factors that influence our happiness quotient and which we can use to increase our happiness, which I will only briefly list here:
- Forming close relationships
- Identifying a life purpose and living accordingly
- Personal routines or practices, such as exercising, laughing, practising a hobby, eating healthily, decluttering, etc.
- Personal characteristics, such as living in the present, being grateful
- Volunteering (improves satisfaction about one’s live by 24% based on the level of altruistic activity according to Williams et al, 1998).
- Use of your funds and material possessions to help others
- Leisure activities and hobbies, particularly going for a walk, but also reading, listening to music, photography, and even watching a good TV programme.
- Sleep well and sufficiently long (people who sleep better are 31% more satisfied with their lives than according to Abdel Khalek et al., 1995)
- Professional practices, such choosing a job we love, or at least finding something in it that makes us happy, such as helping our learners to reach their English learning goals.
- Being in a state of flow, i.e. absorbed in the activities we are doing.
Taking these factors into account, the authors finish the chapter with five practical suggestions, which sound straightforward enough:
- Practising gratitude, by for example keeping a gratitude journal (NK: But also listen to this).
- Living life by thinking of others, e.g. calling or writing to people, thanking or complimenting them.
- Living our lives intentionally by taking initiatives and not just being observers and letting life pass by.
- Drawing on happiness resources (they mention happify.com, but I guess everyone will have their own favourite resources).
- Living in the present and being happy now, not thinking it will ‘magically’ happen at some time in the future.