BUSTED! Eight happiness myths exposed
Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths. Joseph Campbell.
1. If I could get a better job, house, car, lover, more money … I’d be much happier!
People that alter their life in the quest to seek happiness generally discover the grass isn’t always greener. In his book Happier, Harvard Psychology Professor Tal Ben-Shahar calls this the “arrival fallacy” – the belief that when you arrive at a certain destination, you’ll be happy, when the truth is that you will never arrive and be as happy as you suspect. Happiness is a choice. Rather than changing your current situation try to accept it and look at all the positives it brings. This line of thought will bring you much more peace of mind than putting yourself through a big change in the quest for being happier. The key to feeling happier is to take time to get to know what kind of person you want to be and understand what really matters most in your life and then live it.
2. A life of leisure will make you happy
We all fantasise of endless vacations in paradise, but according to The Happiness Project, studies have shown that a life of leisure quickly leads to boredom. Tal Ben-Shahar says that in spite of all your freedom, you cannot be happy without work. That doesn’t mean a 9 to 5 job, it could be completing a productive, fulfilling activity such as helping a charity.
3. Spending time alone will make you feel better
When we’re feeling down, it’s tempting to hide away, stay in bed and watch movies all day, but it’s been proven that connecting with other people is more likely to improve your mood – and this is true even for introverts! According to the Happiness Project, out of fifteen daily activities such as exercising, housework, commuting, going to the gym, grocery shopping … everything is more fun with company.
4. Money will make me happy
Studies have shown that the income level you need to achieve in order to be happy is approximately $40 000 per year. The average income in Australia is around $55 000 which means Australians don’t have a lot of reason to be unhappy. Those that believe that money will buy them happiness risk never being fulfilled because at the end of the day, where will it end? How much money will be enough?
5. People with high self-esteem are happier than people with low self-esteem
INCORRECT! While a positive self-esteem is a good thing, it doesn’t actually impact our core happiness. Having a high self-esteem makes it easier to find partners, get jobs, and win promotions … but you won’t be any happier. Core happiness isn’t about how well your life is going but about how you feel about the life you have. There are plenty of people in the world who think highly of themselves but aren’t happy.
6. Optimism isn’t realistic
Optimistic people tend to think the glass is half full, and it is. How you think about a situation, determines how you feel – which is why we believe happiness is a choice. You control what you think about a situation and therefore how you feel, which affects how you act and this greatly influences how others respond to you. All in all, it’s better to live optimistically and not just for your own piece of mind.
7. You can achieve happiness … forever!
Fairytales aside, the human brain is equipped with “hedonic set points” which not only establish where our base mood is (optimistic, pessimistic or indifferent), but also quickly adapts to our surroundings and returns to our base frame of mind. In 1978, a research group found that lottery winners, jerks and those who has serious injuries (e.g. parapledgic or quadriplegic) reported a similar number of good days compared to bad days. Some psychologists believe that we experience only a brief moment of fleeting happiness when we achieve a goal before our minds look forward to the next conquest. They call this the “hedonic treadmill”. It doesn’t mean that in between feeling happy that you are completely miserable, you just fall back into the normal mood pattern – even the Dalai Lama is on a continuous quest for happiness.
8. People with a c-shaped smile are happier
It’s often perceived that people with a c-shaped smile are happier than those with a u-shaped smile. A c-shape smile goes across the mouth with most of the the top teeth showing, whereas a u-shape smile has the teeth going straight back into the mouth. If the shape of one’s teeth could determine their level of happiness, we’d all get plates and braces or have surgery to re-mould the shape of our smiles to be c-shaped! This is totally untrue. There is no evidence at all so show that people with a c-shape smile, like Britney Spears or Jessica Simpson, are friendlier or happier than those with a u-shape, like what Christina Aguilera has. That surgery does exist and some celebrities have had it if you look closely: Cheryl Cole, Miley Cyrus and Jennifer Garner. It makes a difference to their smile, and cosmetically they look great, but it would not have impacted their long-term happiness.