Can Positive Psychology Make Us Happier?
Most people think that happiness is due to situations that include things we want, such as being married, having a high income or being in a culture that supports you. But those things actually aren’t a factor of whether someone is happy or well.
The difference between happy and unhappy people lies in their thought processes. Each person’s thoughts, moods, feelings, behaviors and motivation seem to determine how they are. Many people experience similar experiences, but how they interpret them and think about them shows which type of person they are. Happy people don’t focus on negative things, and don’t let feedback affect their mood and self-confidence. However, unhappy people are always showing lower self-esteem, by being sensitive to feedback, critical of their performance in tasks, and being sensitive about comparisons to other people.
In decision making, people who are happy stay that way by using multiple adaptive strategies when a hard decision must be made. They use the “satisficing” method of dealing with their situation. People who are unhappy look at all the possible negative aspects of all possible decisions and end up having a harder time deciding on something. And once they do decide on something, they often don’t feel satisfied with their choice. Unhappy people tend t use the “maximizing” method, where they try to choose the best possible choice.
People who are unhappy constantly focus on self-reflection, and focus on negative things about their self and their life. Even when people are happy for the time being, they will revert back to their usual amount of happiness, or their “happiness baseline.” There is also an association between the personality and the happiness baseline: personality characteristics are fixed as well as intertwined with levels of happiness in each individual.
One idea that psychologists have tried to use is the Sustainable Happiness Model, where cognitive, behavioral, and motivational thought processes should be changed to focus more on the positive. Examples include intentional acts of kindness (behavioral), visualizing best possible selves (cognitive), expressing gratitude (cognitive), and pursuing life goals (motivational).
The no side of this issue has multiple articles that claim they have evidence suggesting much less control over how much happiness one has. One theory from an article they looked at claimed that the heritability of happiness is around .50, suggesting that half of the variability in the population’s happiness scores is caused by genes, and the other half by experiences. Another theory is the hedonic treadmill, which suggests that each individual has a happiness baseline, but yet can adapt slightly to life experiences, both good and bad. But they usually stay on or near their baseline.
There is a theory that the no side has refuted known as the 40% estimate. It states that if heritability is 50% and 10% is due to demographic variables, and then the rest – 40% — could be within our power to change. But the biggest problem the no side found with this idea is the fact that the 40% we have left is actually just everything else that could possibly affect our happiness. That makes things very complicated. There are many things both situational and personality, that are variables that may not really be in our control, but definitely affect our emotions.
I personally lean towards the no side because its really hard to diverge from our happiness baseline. I have personally experienced how easy it is to fall back to it, even when you wish you could ditch it or raise it to become a happier person with a better life.
Do you have to have depression in order to have a low happiness baseline that is unsatisfactory to the point that it would be better for you in multiple ways if you could fix it? Would it really be that bad of an idea to just try those ideas that people say will help you become a better person regardless of the statistical errors and evidence that’s been proven unsatisfactory?