Happiness is easier to see in someone else, as sometimes our own happiness is drowned out by negative thoughts or a focus on the hard and stressful times.
In this technological age, more people are opting to use social media as a means to connect and communicate. Through this, we are constantly bombarded with people’s happy moments – their selfies at big events and holidays – and it can make our own lives appear dull. It is important to remember that these social media posts only show us a small snapshot of people’s lives and may not be a true reflection of their day to day lives.
Happiness is not an all or nothing experience. It takes practice to be able to focus on the positive and not the negative parts of our days. Why is it an important practice to feel happier?
Research suggests that happier individuals are more able, and likely to:
- Perceive and frame life circumstances in positive ways
- Adapt to changes, and identify opportunities
- Derive positive meaning from negative events
- Use humour, faith or spirituality to cope with adversity
- Have positive views of self and future
- Perceive control over own outcomes
- Be confident in their abilities and skills
- Set compatible goals in life, and progress towards them
One of the barriers to improving our lives are the beliefs that we have about ourselves, about others, and the world. Two common examples include:
- Rumination – When we reflect on our behaviours, it allows us to understand our previous actions, and helps us to make informed decisions about the future. However, when we dwell on and reflect excessively on our problems, it can prolong our negative moods.
- Social comparison – Many people are familiar with this psychological phenomenon, a process in which we evaluate ourselves by contrasting our own attributes and abilities with others. A number of studies have found that happy individuals are generally less sensitive to social comparisons. This allows them to feel pretty good about themselves, regardless of how others are doing. On the other hand, unhappy individuals tend to be easily upset by inferior performance, to the point where they are more happy and confident about themselves when they outperform their peers despite having performed badly, compared to receiving great results, but not performing as well as their peers.
How can a psychologist promote happiness?
A psychologist can discuss what your goals are in life and help you develop skills to achieve them. If you find that you often compare yourself to others which leads you to feeling upset, or have a tendency to focus on the past and are unable to enjoy the present moment, seeing a psychologist can help. Through a variety of approaches such as CBT, ACT, and Mindfulness, you could be assisted to be able to promote your own happiness.
Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2009). Life satisfaction and measure of progress. Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/1383.0.55.001Main+Features282009
Cohn, M.A., Fredrickson, B.L., Brown, S.L., Mikels, J.A., & Conway, A.M. (2009). Happiness Unpacked: Positive Emotions Increase Life Satisfaction by Building Resilience. Emotion, 9(3), 361-368. doi: 10.1037/a0015952
Diener, R., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2008). Happiness: Unlocking the mysteries of psychological wealth. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.