How's it going? Are you happy?
Updated: Aug 25, 2018
Yale University and the Science of Happiness
I was back home visiting this summer and came across an article in the New York Magazine on my sister’s coffee table. It was on the most popular course in the history of Yale University: Psychology and the Good Life. https://www.thecut.com/2018/05/how-to-be-happy.html Being a life coach devoted to helping others upgrade the quality of their lives, I was fascinated. The course is about happiness, based on recent research that defines, measures, and applies the principles of happiness. This to me is all about living a great quality life. So I dug in exuberantly, reading all the books I could find on the required reading list and exploring the rich authentic happiness website* with it’s array of assessments related to measuring happiness (see below.) I had a great trip and wanted to share this information with you because it’s really about happiness as a science which is measurable and predictable. That’s exciting to me!
I live in a Happy Country
Now I’m back home in Costa Rica where I’ve lived as an expat for 14 years. I am fortunate to live in a country that consistently ranks high on the global happiness index; higher, actually, than the US. https://wearemitu.com/identities/21-reasons-why-costa-rica-is-the-happiest-country-in-the-world/2/ There are multiple indices out there, and depending on what they’re measuring, the rankings of the countries are a bit different. The Happy Planet Index http://happyplanetindex.org/ includes environmental sustainability as part of the ranking, which makes sense to me. Costa Rica is also a country where people live long lives. I live at the north end of one of the five Blue Zones in the world, on the Nicoya Peninsula. Read about Blue Zones here: https://singularityhub.com/2009/07/20/blue-zones-places-in-the-world-where-people-live-to-100-and-stay-healthy/#sm.001ginrtl1eekcyesir2c2tr9bge7 It seems that longevity is related to happiness as well; see this CNN article. https://edition.cnn.com/2011/10/31/health/happiness-linked-longer-life/index.html
If you’ve visited Costa Rica than you’ve heard the greeting “pura vida”. It’s a multiple-meaning phrase that can signify “hello”, “take care”, “all is well”, “see you soon”, “thank you”, “you’re welcome” , etc. and translates literally to “pure life”. It’s a salutation in celebration of life.
Another word you hear a lot here is “tranquilo” which means “relax”, “don’t worry”, “there’s no rush”. Back to that course at Yale, one of the elements it covers is time affluence as an element of happiness. This means having non-work time available to do something like take a walk, meet a friend for coffee, or read for pleasure. I live in a culture that may be lower in income per capita, but which is much, much higher in time affluence. I had to get used to workmen never showing up as scheduled and instead at some later, unannounced time, often days or even weeks later. There is no point in getting frustrated and upset (which I often did) because that will not change the circumstances created by the culture.
The Income and Percentages of Happiness
And this brings us to another important point about happiness. We tend to believe that changing our circumstances will make us happier. If I lived in a different house or neighborhood, I’d be happier. Or if I were in another line of work, I’d be happy. Or, if I just earned another $50,000 I’d be happy. In another study, an actual annual income amount was identified as the set point for happiness in terms of money. And that amount is, surprisingly, $75,000 (based on the US economy). Happiness measures increase with income up to this level, but after that there is no observable increase in happiness related to earnings, whether it’s $100,000 or $1MM. See the article about the Nobel prize winner who authored this study: http://time.com/money/4070041/angus-deaton-nobel-winner-money-happiness/ So relax if you’re earning close to $75,000, you don’t need to focus on generating more income to be happy. There are other things on which to focus that would be more productive. (On the other hand, if you haven't yet reached the $75,000, it’s a great goal to work on with a coach!)
One of the required reading books for the Yale course, (The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky) proposes that about 50% of our happiness level is determined by genes (yes, some of us are just born happier folks), 10% is determined by circumstances (income, job, relationship, living conditions, etc.) and 40% is determined by our thoughts, actions and attitudes. Enter the Law of Attraction.
The Law of Attraction and Happiness
I am a certified Law of Attraction coach, and my work is based on Law of Attraction principles. (Life coach is the category and law of attraction coach is the subcategory; I am a life coach who teaches and applies the principles of the Law of Attraction to assist a client in making changes in his/her life. Here's an article on the difference. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140829134912-104758871-3-reasons-to-choose-a-certified-law-of-attraction-life-coach-instead-of-a-regular-life-coach/
The Law of Attraction is a concept that has been around since 1877, it emerged during the 19th century philosophical and spiritual movement referred to as New Thought. That’s over 140 years since it first appeared in print, so it's not that new. But the concept experienced a renaissance that took it mainstream during the turn of this century with books such as Excuse Me Your Life is Waiting by Lynn Grabhorn, 1999, the work of Abraham and Esther Hicks including Ask and It is Given, 2004, and The Secret by Rhonda Byrne in 2006. The Law of Attraction states, in a nutshell, that like attracts like, meaning where we put our thoughts, feelings and attention will develop into our life experience. Why? Because our focus, thoughts and feelings determine our energy frequency, and that energy frequency will attract situations, people, and occurrences of a similar energy frequency into our experience. There is more to it than that, such as how we feel about where our focus is, how much an expression of our authentic selves our actions are, and perhaps most importantly, how we are feeling in general, i.e. are we happy? Trying to apply the Law of Attraction when we’re stressed, overtired, or angry for example does not work. You have to become familiar with what I like to call your “resonant frequency” which is your frequency when you’re calm, comfortable, confident, and able to be fully yourself, when your well-being is at it’s optimum. The work on your focus, emotions, well being and behaviors is that 40% under your control, discussed above.
To tie this all together, living a great quality life equates with living happily. There are specific measures for this, and there are strategies to improve those measures. Costa Rica, although the average income is roughly 20% that of the US, scores higher than the US on the happiness indices. Maybe we can learn something from this culture. Recent research shows us a new way of looking at achieving happiness. While we may not have 100% agency over every aspect of our lives, we can influence our own happiness to a significant degree. This lines up with the application of the Law of Attraction, which requires managing one’s well being and happiness. There are specific actions and behaviors that support this. Here is just one list: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/tom-casano/15-simple-ways-to-live-a-_b_7699516.html A Law of Attraction coach is able to analyze and see perspectives and behaviors you may have that are impeding your own happiness. Taking a stand and mastering your own well being requires going up against the status quo of our society that is constantly scanning for what’s wrong; a coach can help with this. The popularity of the Yale course Psychology and the Good Life shows just how much this subject is trending now.
Here are a few of the books & references from the course at Yale:
Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman Considered to be the father of positive psychology, Dr. Seligman and his colleagues have developed an array of tests that can be taken at *https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/testcenter These measure your happiness index and your strengths (the expression of which is a crucial variable in living a happy life), and there are many other tests, all free.
Nudge, Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, by Richard Thaler
The Happiness Hypothesis, by Jonathan Haidt
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Law of Attraction life coach, personality specialist, cultural creative
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