YY or Mariposa, a reader, brought this book, The How of Happiness, to my attention. In a comment on this post, YY said, "Have you read the book 'The How of Happiness' by any chance? Sounds like you might have.. ;-) I'm in the middle of it now and it's one of the most illuminating books I've ever read! It may end up next to the bible for me in terms of guidance for living... :D"
Wow, next to the bible! Now this perked my curiosity. I've not read the book but found an iPhone app called Live Happy, and here's a video of the author talking about this app.
I asked YY why she would think that I might have read the book and she said, "Oh, because you mentioned in a recent post that you don't think you're a fundamentally happy person (the book posits, through research, that people are born with a predetermined 'happiness-setpoint'--a happiness thermostat, if you will--that determines the basic 50% of their happiness).
And then in this post you mentioned the term 'overthinking'--which the book elaborated on as one of the list of 'happiness activities' to embark on (this one is about *avoiding* overthinking, actually).
However later as I searched your blog I realized you had previously read something called the 'Happiness Project' and was at one time applying its suggestions."
Oh I see. I totally believe in Happiness Setpoint. This is not really from reading any book or from that Happiness Project site (which I've not visited in a long time), but partly from listening to New Creation's Pastor Prince's sermons, I think. Whatever one might say about this pastor's swanky lifestyle, all I know is his sermons are the only ones that ever stick in this cynical mind of mine.
So anyway, I remember having an aha moment when Prince said something about how nothing can really satisfy or make us truly, truly happy but Jesus (and I expect other religions teach the same, either to search within or at a higher being). And then I thought about all the promotions we hanker after, that new house, the latest gadget, that wonderful crush...and you notice how you tell yourself that you will be happy forever if only you get that promo, that person to love you back, that gorgeous apartment, and yes, you do get a high after achieving something, and then within weeks, days even, you're back to your old self. Nothing really changes. The same old things still bother you. The same issues still make you depressed, think negative thoughts, think the future's bleak, lose precious sleep over.
So when you depend on these achievements, or even people, for your happiness, you are bound to be disappointed. Cos even those closest to you, your spouse, your children, they will say or do things which hurt you. You do the same to them.
Not overthinking things helps too. Overthinkers tend to be a less happy lot, I think. There I go again, even blogging about this is kind of overthinking, isn't it? haha.
So this book says we have a happiness setpoint, which determines about half of our state of happiness, another 10% is due to our circumstances, which leaves 40% that can be determined by our actions (I may be wrong, this is just what I gleaned from the video).
I guess the 10% is where Money comes in, having means helps, but note only 10% or less, according to the book. Monica and I were just talking about the recent Idol Gives Back, and how the African kids, despite their intense suffering and poverty, still smile and always look happy. She went on to say, "Our kids seem like spoilt brats.", I said, "Not just our kids, us too!"
Now what about the 40%? I don't know what the book says, but here's something I learnt from my mother-in-law. She's a staunch Buddhist who meditates. She's gone through lots yet laughs a lot, though sometimes I do see sadness still in her eyes amid the laughing. I asked her once how she manages to stay positive, and she said something about how there really is nothing much you can do to change others, you can only make changes in yourself. It's like what I always tell my kids, you can't control how other act, you can only control how you react.
From my talk with her, I also realised that for the most part, no one actually intentionally goes out to hurt us or be cruel to us. The villains in our lives (for the most part, I'm not talking about rapists, murderers, paedophiles) do so to fulfil their own needs, yes, even thieves cos they need the money to maybe feed their family or their drug habits. Mothers scream at kids cos they are stressed at work. Bosses are mean cos their own bosses are mean to them. Some people are just inherently mean, what can you do about it? You can't let someone else dictate how you feel...so let it flow past you. Don't take things personally. I found this helped me a lot to get over unhappiness faster and return back to a happier state.
Being slim makes me happy too. But having struggled with weight all my life, I've only been happy in this aspect a few times in my life, right before my wedding when I was at my skinniest ever, and some other times after crash diets. I blame the media for their portrayal of ideal woman (size zero) and Singapore women in general for being so darn thin, kidding (not really :P)! Well, I now realise I'm never gonna be small, so no more fad dieting, I'll be happy being healthy and at a healthy weight. And no, I'm not there yet, not even close, but I'm taking steps to get fit. Thanks to Hsien, I've embarked on the C25K running programme, and am into my 4th week at it.
Not comparing is another crucial key to happiness. I wanna stop doing this. What I have is what I have. I don't wanna sound like sour grapes too. I will admit it would be nice to have a bigger place than my tiny apartment in Singapore, but if it means extra stress on the sole breadwinner, forget it. If I'm not willing to work my own butt off climbing the corporate ladder and bringing in the dough, I shouldn't be comparing to others who are. It really is about counting our blessings, we all have them. My cousin sister and I have been emailing each other recently, and it really is a case of grass greener over the other side; funny how I think she has it all, and she thinks the same about me.
Anyway, I'm sure the book has lots more to offer, and the tips are said to be scientifically backed up. So go have a read if the pursuit of happiness is something you wanna do, if not, never mind. I'll be looking out for this at the bookstores.