Pocket Full of Sunshine


You are as happy as you decide to be.

Every business, school, and organization has them … the people who are crabby. I spotted one the other day. Posted on her desk area, was a piece of paper with a lovely little message that made her life view very clear. It said, “life sucks, and then you die.” My goodness, let me rush right home and cross-stitch that on a pillow. That pretty much tells it all. No raise, no opportunity to work on a fulfilling project, no promotion, no removal of other people who aren’t performing that get in her way would solve her internal unhappiness that she’s committed herself to. Safe bet her life will be even more miserable next year.

In the latest findings on happiness, the University of California and Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness says that genes predetermine half of a person’s happiness. That’s a lot, but that’s not all. Ten percent of a person’s happiness is based on their life circumstances … their job, their kids behavior, whether their spouse gives them a foot massage, etc. That leaves 40% of a person’s happiness based on something they can influence. The intentional activities and thoughts that you choose that either increase or decrease happiness. We have the opportunity to control 40% of our happiness.

So if you’re busily blaming life’s circumstances, stuff a sock in it. Life circumstances are not what are making you unhappy. You make you unhappy. Now what about happiness as money. Will money make you happy? More than 200 research studies show that money does not make you happy. Surprised? However, research shows that people who are happy do earn more money. More than $750,000 in their lifetime when compared to those who aren’t happy. So maybe money doesn’t buy happiness but happiness apparently buys money. These studies have found that happy people also have more relaxed and peaceful lives and are more fulfilled. Go figure, these happy people have it all.

What about the antithesis of happiness?

According to statistics, one out of five women in America are on antidepressants. More than 118,000,000 prescriptions for antidepressants were written last year … now that’s a little depressing. While researchers are finding that a fair amount of depression has to do with the influence of unhealthy foods on our brain chemistry, the astonishing fact is that a good share of our unhappiness has to do with how we think-how we frame events and conversations in our lives. It is how you interpret your events, people, and things on a daily basis that makes a difference.

Is a rainy day a good thing or a bad thing? It’s neither it is neutral. You decide if it’s a good or bad thing – you decide this about all things in your life. That is what determines a fair amount of the mental state of your happiness. When you interpret things as good instead of bad, that changes the dendrites in your brain so suddenly, your brain finds it easier to interpret things as good. You have rewired your brain for happiness. When we become clear that most of life’s events are neutral, and waiting for us to attach meaning, we regain our ability to find happiness.

According to experts, what is one of the best ways to create happiness? Find meaningful work. Even better, make your work meaningful. So when you make the life of your customers and co-workers better, you may be amazed at how you’ve picked up a skip in your step.

2 Responses to “Pocket Full of Sunshine”

  1. R. Sharples says:

    Thanks for the article on happiness! I struggled to feel empowered after reading the e-zine and wanted to share my thoughts. Although it is a good reminder that we determine how we view the world and how that affects us, the usage of key data points without context to assert the message comes off as ignorant. Most notably, 118,000,000 is a big number but how many scripts does one person typically get each year and what % of the population does that account for? Anti-depressants aren’t just used to treat depression, they are also used to treat a wide array of conditions including, but not limited to, PTSD, bulimia, and PMDD that are not a symptom of being unhappy. How much of the 118,000,000 is attributed to depression alone? How many research studies were done that showed money does make you happy? Can you provide a link to the study that says happiness could make someone ~$750,000 more than someone who isn’t happy? Over how long of a period does that account for? I can appreciate that the writer’s goal here is to motivate and inspire change, but the use of data/statistics to support assertion(s) like ‘life circumstances are not what are making you unhappy…. you make you unhappy’ and ‘happiness apparently buys money’ just cheapen the message and end up coming across as tone-deaf to a very complex, broad issue.

  2. Natasha Deschenes says:

    I just wanted to offer some feedback to the writer from someone who has experienced severe depression and anxiety throughout my adult life and believes that some topics should remain with my therapist. I agree that the writer has a lot of great points in this article as far as trying to see the good in all circumstances and the choice to find happiness in situations. However, I believe that there are some subjects in this article that should probably not be discussed in this setting and are mentioned in a broad way that can be detrimental for people who are experiencing mental illness or mental crisis. It is my understanding that this E-Zine is for distribution in the workplace and to address work-related subjects. I agree that discussing how you present yourself at work and enriching your customer and co-workers’ lives are both very important, but subjects such as personal finances, life circumstances, unhealthy foods, and depression/antidepressants should not be discussed and distributed in this manner in the workplace outside of human resources.

    In my opinion, it is hard to say what impact each individual’s life circumstances may have on their happiness and there is no way to gauge how that will change their work life. I saw that the article mentioned that it’s the “intentional activities and thought that you choose that either increase or decrease happiness”. This is good advice; however, we are forgetting the circumstances and privilege that is at play in having the time and resources to be able to do those activities and I think it is a little near sighted to tell someone to “stuff a sock in it”. Additionally, to that point I get the old saying “money doesn’t buy happiness” and I get where the writer was going with that point. However, economic instability is not something that should be used to prove a point and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that. It should also be noted that lack of income can determine if one can afford healthy foods or enough healthy food to help with the “brain chemistry” aspect of happiness. Additionally, I would be cautious to discuss others diets/limiting foods in a broad way like this as it may be triggering for those with eating disorders.

    Lastly, another important discussion that needs to be addressed is the paragraph on antidepressants. I want to be very clear in saying that mental illness should be treated like any other illness. If someone’s body does not produce enough serotonin to fight depression or they take it under other circumstances, then antidepressants may be essential for everyday life. There is already a stigma around taking antidepressants and other mental health medication and to chalk up unhappiness to “unhealthy foods” and stating that “a good share of our unhappiness has to do with how we think-how we frame events and conversations in our live” in the same paragraph seems to endorse that stigma.

    I cannot claim to be a mental health professional and I know that I am speaking from my viewpoint which may not represent everyone that reads this E-Zine, however I wanted you to be aware of my perspective. I would like to see these subjects discussed by professional mental health experts and not in a workplace setting.

    Roxanne, can I get your commitment to be more cognizant of these very important social issues when writing, editing and releasing your E-Zine?

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