Get Control of Your Happiness

New book offers 12 scientific steps to help you get what you want from life.

ByABC News via GMA logo
January 8, 2009, 1:37 AM

Jan. 8, 2008 — -- Don't wait for happiness to find you. Go out and get it with tips from "The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting What You Want in Life."

In her new book, research psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky asserts that humans have control of 40 percent of their happiness. With that statistic in mind, Lyubomirsky identifies 12 strategies to help you realize that happiness and sustain it for the long term.

Unlike other self-help books that offer personal advice, "The How of Happiness" argues that getting happy can be a matter of science.

Read an excerpt from "The How of Happiness" below:

"Happiness consists in activity. It is a running stream, not a stagnant pool."?John Mason Good

Many are familiar with the Serenity Prayer, written by German philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr and widely adopted for use in twelve-step programs: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." But how can you know the difference?

It should be obvious by now where the secret to happiness does not lie. The fountain of happiness lies not in changing our genetically determined set points, for they are, by definition, resistant to change, influence, or control. We are also unlikely to find lasting happiness by changing our life circumstances. Although we may achieve temporary boosts in well-being by moving to new parts of the country, securing raises, or changing our appearances, such boosts are unlikely to be long-lasting. The primary reason, as I have argued, is that people readily and rapidly adapt to positive circumstantial changes. I would furthermore be remiss if I failed to point out other reasons why circumstantial changes may prove unsuccessful in making us permanently happier: because they can be very costly, often impractical, and sometimes even impossible. Does everyone have the money, resources, or time to change her living situation, her job, her spouse, her physical appearance?

If the secret to happiness does not lie in increasing our set points or in positively impacting the circumstances of our lives, what is left? Is it possible to attain greater happiness and sustain it? To be sure, most of us do become happier at some point during our lives. Indeed, contrary to popular belief, people actually get happier with age. A twenty-two-year study of about two thousand healthy veterans of World War II and the Korean War revealed that life satisfaction increased over the course of these men's lives, peaked at age sixty-five, and didn't start significantly declining until age seventy-five (see p. 64).61