Tag Archives: happier life

Study: Personality Changes Boost Happiness More than External Factors

Happy Life; Happy Marriage

How many millions of people bought lottery tickets last week, hoping for a chance at the $500 million pot, and dreaming of what kind of happiness that could buy? (My hubby even bought them, and he rarely plays.)  After failing to win the big one (better luck next time), many turned to hopes of a raise or a new job as ways to boost their happiness. However, new research based on a study of more than 8,600 Australians concluded that personality changes were much more meaningful to life satisfaction that other factors, such as financial gain. In fact, personality changes explained nearly double the changes in life satisfaction of all the other characteristics studied.

You may ask whether your personality is fixed—or, at least very difficult to change? It turns out that is isn’t. Our personality shifts much more than we realize. “Compared to shifts in these external circumstances, a personality change is just as likely to occur and contributes much more to improvements in our well-being,” says The Atlantic of the study, which was completed at the University of Manchester and London School of Economics and Political Science.

Participants answered questions on life satisfaction and personality at two different points in time, four years apart. Personality characteristics related to openness to experiences, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism were measured. External factors were also measured: shifts in income, employment, and marital status.

So, if you are looking to boost your happiness, consider making small positive internal changes, and realize that you can alter your personality, hopefully reducing negative aspects and improving positive aspects. These efforts can be rewarded with far greater boosts in happiness than that work bonus you may have been holding out for or other lifestyle factors.  Check out the full study here.

Lori Lowe’s book First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage is now available on Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.  Lori and her husband of 16 years live in Indianapolis with their two children.

Photo by graur razvan ionut courtesty of freedigitalphotos.net.

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Can Your Mind Change Your World?

Happy Life: Happy Marriage Series

Entire philosophies and religions have been built upon the idea that by changing our mind, we can change our lives—that the secret to a more prosperous life is just being open to greater prosperity. That believing you have a great marriage will help you get there.

We are inundated with messages from popular psychology telling us how to achieve success without action, but with a new way of thinking (sometimes called New Age thinking). Various books offer new prescriptions. “Pull a few psychic levers, believe the best about yourself, assert yourself, and happiness will be yours,” says the tongue-in-cheek David Myers, PhD, in The Pursuit of Happiness. In fact, just today, I read a post from a counselor stating that we can indeed change our lives using the power of our minds.

I would say we can control our perception of life, and we can even make our lives considerably happier. Our minds, and even our spirits, are powerful. However, we can’t prevent disease and earthquakes or erase evil from the planet.

I would also mention that I disagree with philosophies and religious that suggest the “individual as God” mentality in which we can control the world around us. For people of faith, that is unbiblical. And for people of science, it’s unproven. Certain celebrities promote this way of thinking, and I think it’s tempting for many to think they can gain wealth and influence and achieve their dreams by sitting in their bathrooms and thinking positive thoughts. I do believe we can achieve our dreams, but we have to use our minds and our actions as well as positive thoughts.

We do know the mind can affect our bodies, sometimes dramatically. For example, the placebo effect is well-known: if people think they are taking an effective treatment, their body is more likely to heal, even if they are taking a sugar pill. If doctors can make patients believe they will become well, some of them will become well as a result, even with no other treatment. In addition, optimists have been shown to heal faster after surgery and to respond to stress better than pessimists (responding with smaller blood pressure increases). We know that relaxation, meditation and optimism promote healing, says Myers.

But research has been unable to prove that we can change the world around us with positive thinking (and draw those millions of dollars that we deserve to us)—just as we can’t change our spouse with positive thinking. However, I think that focusing on feelings of gratitude and expressing positive thoughts, while also attempting to act in a more positive manner, can indeed affect those around us, including our spouse. In other words, by “positive acting” not just positive thinking, we can start to change the world around us.

As an example, a friend recently decided to participate in a challenge called 29 Gifts, started by Cami Walker, author of the book by the same name. Each day, my friend gave some kind of gift or act of love to someone she knew, with no expectation of anything in return. You can read about her experience here in Is it Really Better to Give than to Receive? I know about this only because I was one of the recipients of a thoughtful gift and kind note that made my day. Within a month, her decision to act in a positive, loving manner had far-reaching effects for those around her, many of whom were inspired to act similarly.

My point (in life and marriage) is if we become too self-focused, we lose the point of loving those around us. It’s all well and good to try to be more positive, calm, and grateful on our own. But by expressing gratitude (in writing or verbally, or in prayer), or by giving a hug, or by taking a positive action to help our partner with something, or to just be there to listen while he or she talks, we can make a real impact and demonstrate real love. I believe this positive impact will increase our own happiness as well as the happiness of those around us.

Try it for a few days. Do something nice for someone you know, and pay attention to how it makes you feel before and after. Then do something nice for your spouse for a few days and see how it affects your relationship.

Next week, I’ll talk about how the images of how our lives and marriages “should be” can impact our happiness levels.

 Photo credit: ©.shock/PhotoXpress.com

We “Can’t Get No” Satisfaction

Happy Life: Happy Marriage Series

One of the biggest obstacles to our becoming happy is our inability to be satisfied, says Dennis Prager, author of Happiness is a Serious Problem. In case you didn’t notice, human nature is insatiable. We are never completely satisfied with ourselves, our partner, our income, our homes, our children, our jobs, our sex lives, or our bodies. We’re never completely satisfied with our entire lives, and due to our human nature, we may never be.

That is not to say that we cannot learn to be content. However, it doesn’t serve us well to pretend the outside world is always to blame for our dissatisfaction, when truly, the world couldn’t really satisfy us if it tried. Therefore, working on our inner thoughts is part of our journey to become happier.

“We must be able, in effect, to tell our nature that although we hear it and respect it, our mind, not our nature, will determine whether we are satisfied,” says Prager.

This ability to choose happiness is why we see individuals living in poverty across the world who are much happier than some truly wealthy westerners. While we may be dissatisfied, we can still choose happiness. We can work on reducing the causes of our dissatisfaction while also deciding that we are going to choose to be happy. Even in a world that includes evil, we can still find happiness. (Read How Can We Be Happy with Tragedy & Evil in the World?)

Some of humankind’s inability to be satisfied is positive. Dissatisfaction motivates us to change, improve, create, accomplish. If it weren’t for feeling dissatisfied, we as humans wouldn’t seek innovation and improvement in ourselves and in our world. It’s a critical piece to our humanity. I’m thankful for this type of dissatisfaction, because it does drive me to improve in so many ways.

Prager distinguishes between necessary (or positive) dissatisfaction and unnecessary dissatisfaction. All creative types have a necessary dissatisfaction with their work that causes them to strive to improve it. Much of the necessary dissatisfaction in our lives leads us to make crucial changes. If we were satisfied with dating losers, we would have no incentive to find a suitable mate. When couples are dissatisfied with their level of intimacy, this feeling can lead them to make improvements in communication and connection.

Unnecessary dissatisfaction relates to items that are either not important (inability to find the perfect boots) or not within our control (who your parents are). “Your dissatisfaction may be an entirely valid one, but if its cause cannot be changed, it only increases unhappiness,” says Prager. “Only when you have the serenity to accept the things you cannot change will you recognize that the dissatisfaction you feel over them is indeed unnecessary.”

So, there you have it. We will always be dissatisfied. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still have happiness. It’s something we have to work out in our own minds.

How satisfied are you with yourself, your mate, your life? Does your dissatisfaction impede your happiness level?

Related Link:

“We have 225 studies [that say] that once you’re a happy person, you’re more likelyto make your marriage work, says Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, in an interesting article called “Perk Up” for Spirit Magazine. “You’re more likely to be creative, productive, to be healthier, to have stronger immune function.” The article gives some advice on measuring and evaluating your happiness level. Thanks to The Generous Wife for the link.

Photo credit: ©Cynthia Skaar/PhotoXpress.com