How Much Control Do You Have Over Your Own Happiness?

How Much Control Do You Have Over Your Own Happiness?

Self-help and self-care is very important. We all need to take responsibility for our health and wellbeing and do what we can to ensure we thrive and flourish.

But that being said, our happiness is NOT entirely within our control. There are social and political, external variables that play important roles; and deserve our attention.

Check out this fascinating article from the Greater Good by Jeremy Adam Smith …

Is your happiness a choice, as so many positive psychologists, coaches, classes, books, memes, and coffee mugs say? Are your feelings of joy, contentment, and purpose really under your control? Is well-being something you can improve with a few “simple steps,” as so many websites promise—including, sometimes, this one?

I’m American, and many Americans like to believe that success of any kind is largely a matter of will, despite a great deal of evidence to the contrary. In fact, according to quite a few recent studies, there are events and forces at work today that are simply making happiness much less likely for many people, and which seem to be widening “happiness gaps” between the most privileged and everyone else: the mass-death event of COVID-19 and the chaos it has caused, racism, political conflict, and economic inequality, among other problems.

And yet, people who study happiness and promote ways to get more of it keep emphasizing the same cluster of individual-level tips and tools—mindfulness, gratitude journaling, etc.—and continue to suggest that you can control much of your subjective well-being with intentional strategies. As psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky once argued, 40% of the differences in well-being among people can be accounted for by the things individuals do, with half of the differences controlled by genetics and only 10% by circumstances.

If you move outside of happiness studies, however, to other branches of psychology as well as fields like economics and sociology, a very different picture emerges: Happiness starts to look less like an individual choice and more like a product of institutional, economic, and historical forces, shaped by power differences between groups. Though I’ve always been aware of this blind spot in happiness research, my experience during the pandemic has led me to try harder to see what’s behind that curtain—and to explore the studies that do try to understand the impact of structural forces on happiness.

Now, as the editor of Greater Good magazine, I’ve been asking myself: How should these insights affect how we talk about happiness? The answer isn’t a simple one; it begins from a place of intellectual and cultural humility, of just not knowing exactly how actions, circumstances, and genetics interact to shape our subjective well-being.

However, I have come to feel that there’s something dishonest in minimizing the role of social forces—and that this dishonestly can be rooted in discounting the experiences of people who are hurt or marginalized by those forces. We need to try to talk about happiness in a way that will, I hope, feel truer to a wider number of people—and help free us from the belief that whenever we’re unhappy we just haven’t been trying “hard enough.”

… keep reading the full & original article HERE