08 Sep 7 Scientifically Supported Steps to Happiness
via Psychology Today by Douglas T Kenrick
- Sonja Lyubomirsky has done rigorous research on the seemingly soft question of “how to be happy.”
- Her book “The How of Happiness” is rich in great advice.
- Happiness activities include doing something nice for someone else, expressing gratitude, and nurturing relationships.
Sonja Lyubomirsky is a professor at University of California, Riverside, and the author of The How of Happiness: A scientific approach to getting the life you want. A book called “The How of Happiness” might sound a little soft and pop-psychy, but if you read it, you’ll find that it actually delivers on the “scientific” part. Indeed, Lyubomirsky is a highly regarded research scientist, whose work has been cited 56,537 times, according to Google Scholar (a number that puts her in the Highly Respected category).
Originally writing her name as Соня Любомирскаяa, she was born in Russia, but emigrated to the U.S. as a child, at a time before Glasnost, when there was a still an “Iron Curtain.” Her mother was well-educated, but forced to work as a cleaning lady. As she tells the story, one of her mom’s wealthy clients: “had a daughter who was applying to this fancy school (Maret) and so my mom (knowing nothing about private schools or even what it means to apply or that they cost money) heard this and decided that I should apply too. (The woman scoffed.) And so my parents, not knowing anything, just drove me to the school and asked if I could go there. The assistant headmistress was kind of dumbfounded about what to do with this clueless and non-English-speaking family (in 1977 there were no Russians in the US and all the synagogues had signs that said ‘Save Soviet Jewry’ on them) but decided to give me a test right then and there. The short story is that I got in but the wealthy woman’s daughter didn’t.”
This happy turn of events was followed by her getting an undergraduate degree from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. from Stanford. Perhaps that life trajectory made Lyubomirsky happier than most people, but for whatever reason, she is someone who radiates positive affect, if you ever had the good fortune to meet her at a conference.
Lyubomirsky and her book, “The How of Happiness.”Source: Sonja Lyubomirsky, used with permission
I had read The How of Happiness a few years back, but recently listened to the audio version because I was looking for some references for a book I just completed on evolutionary positive psychology (Kenrick & Lundberg-Kenrick, 2021). I was delighted to learn that she read her own book for the audio version, given that I associate her voice with all that radiated positive affect (plus I always prefer an author-read book, if only because it avoids mispronounced technical terms and names).
Lyubomirsky has done some research comparing happy and unhappy people, and in the book, she details the differences. Based on her research and that of others, she offers a number of concrete suggestions to make yourself happier. The book is organized around 12 “happiness activities,” but some of those are actually broken into sub-categories, so the real number of advice bits is probably closer to 30 or 40. I am going to list below the seven that I found most helpful…
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