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Why only 33% of Americans are Happy?

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Have you ever wondered why some people seem to be perpetual happy campers while others struggle with depression? Well, here’s the scoop: The human brain isn’t naturally programmed for happiness. And as if that wasn’t enough, our minds can deceive us into fleeting happiness. This sets us off on a wild goose chase for things that won’t truly fulfill us in the end. Trust me on this one!

It is often assumed that humans are genetically predisposed to happiness. But here’s the unfortunate truth: we aren’t wired for joy. Natural selection couldn’t care less about our feelings; its sole concern is our survival and reproduction. Shockingly, according to the 2017 Harris Poll Survey of American Happiness, a mere 33% of Americans claim to be happy. The number of unhappy individuals has reached unprecedented levels. So, where are we going wrong as a human race? It’s time we delve deeper into this perplexing question.

Psychologists Dan Gilbert and Tim Wilson introduced the concept of miswanting to shed light on a fascinating phenomenon.


“The naive psychology of happiness is simple: We want, we try, we get, we like. Then, with the help of television commercials, we want some more.”

Dan Gilbert and Tim Wilson

It’s not when we fail to obtain what we desire that unhappiness strikes, but rather when we find ourselves dissatisfied even after achieving our goals. To truly experience happiness, we must acknowledge that our own minds can deceive us. There are certain tricky aspects of our minds that lead us astray, preventing us from attaining genuine happiness.

4 Features of the Mind:

1. Intuitions

One of the most intriguing and frustrating aspects of the mind is that we all possess these instincts about what we should do to improve our well-being. However, research has revealed that many of these instincts are often misleading. Let’s dive deeper into this fascinating topic and uncover the truth behind our innate inclinations.

Many of us hold the belief that if we just had more cash, everything would fall into place. The same goes for other aspirations like promotions, material possessions, and even relationships. We tend to think that the problem lies in our inability to attain what we desire. However, the truth is, even if we were to acquire those very things, chances are, they wouldn’t bring us true happiness. Because, in reality, we often desire the wrong things.

2. Reference Points

We’re always caught up in comparing ourselves to others: comparing our wages, our appearances, satisfaction in our marriages, and even the frequency of our sex lives. But here’s the problem: no matter how objectively well we’re doing in life, as long as there’s someone out there whom we think is doing even better, we can’t help but feel like failures. And that’s a real issue.

3. Hedonic Adaptations

One of the most exasperating aspects of the mind is its tendency to adapt and grow accustomed to various stimuli. Hedonic adaptation, a fascinating process within our brains, gradually diminishes the emotional impact of things that once stirred us deeply.

Take for example the thrill of buying a new car. Initially, you’ll be absolutely ecstatic about your purchase; but after a few days or weeks, its allure fades away and it becomes more like background noise—something that simply exists in your life.

4. Impact Bias

Hedonic adaptation can give rise to another issue known as impact bias. We often assume that if something amazing happens, it will greatly and enduringly impact our happiness – but the evidence tells a different story. As humans, we have a tendency to speculate about the potential effects of any event on our happiness, yet the truth is, we can never be certain.

The great news is that this is completely normal and can happen to all of us. We have the power to rewire our own routines, transforming our habits and experiencing a profound sense of well-being and happiness.

According to Laurie Santos, a renowned psychology teacher at Yale, there are a set of practices called rewirements that can help us achieve this. These practices involve prioritizing social connections, cultivating empathy and gratitude, and integrating physical exercise and character strengths into our daily lives. By embracing these practices, we can truly transform our lives for the better.

6 Habits for Rewirement:

1. Social Connection

Multiple research studies on happiness emphasize that happy people are naturally social. They genuinely enjoy the company of others and actively prioritize spending time with their loved ones. We often take our relationships for granted, but when we actually take the time to appreciate our friends and family, it can have a profound impact on our happiness.

The reason we often lack social connection is because we underestimate just how fulfilling it can be. This concept, known as undersociality as termed by Nick Epley, causes us to overlook the opportunity to form deep and meaningful bonds with others. Unfortunately, we fail to realize the true value of social connection and consequently miss out on the incredible positive emotions that stem from strong relationships with others.

2. Other-orientedness

One more habit that we know has a profound impact on our happiness is doing kind things for others or making an effort to be more focused on them. While we often believe that self-care is the secret to happiness, research suggests that happy people are often more focused on others. They spend their time volunteering, making donations, and performing small acts of kindness for others. Trust us, these acts can truly make a difference!

3. Gratitude

Another powerful way to rewire our happiness is by shifting our thinking patterns. Seriously, do we really have the brain capacity to constantly focus on all the unfavorable and inconvenient things in life? I don’t think so!

Let me share with you a tried and true method that has been proven time and again: journaling. Take a few minutes every morning or night to jot down 3 to 5 things you’re genuinely grateful for. Trust me, this simple practice can work wonders in rewiring those negative pathways into positive ones. Give it a shot and see the transformation happen!

4. Savoring

One reason why our lives don’t always bring us joy is that we often fail to truly observe them. We might grab a delicious latte that we should be savoring and enjoying every sip of, but instead, we gulp it down while checking our emails.

We get so caught up in our tasks that we forget to pause and appreciate the little things. Next time you find yourself multitasking, take a moment to step back and focus on one thing at a time. Research has shown that concentrating on a single task actually enhances efficiency and performance, leading to greater satisfaction.

5. Exercise

Many of us tend to overlook the fact that our bodies and mind are intricately connected. What if I told you that a simple way to transform our mental state is as easy as moving our bodies a little more? Believe it or not, even just 20 minutes a day can truly elevate your overall well-being. Trust me, it’s worth it!

6. Character Strengths

Character strengths are the incredible qualities that truly define who we are as individuals. They are the deep-rooted and cultivated attributes that shape our thoughts, emotions, and actions. These strengths can be grouped into six broad virtues, as identified by the pioneers of positive psychology, Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence.

Harnessing character strengths is a transformative tool that has the power to positively impact our lives and the lives of those around us. By embracing our unique qualities, we can foster personal growth, resilience, meaningful relationships, and professional success. Trust in the journey of discovering and nurturing your own character strengths, and watch the extraordinary unfold.


“We’re going to have moments of anger. We’re going to have moments of sadness. We’re going to have moments of fear or frustration or overwhelm – that’s part of being human”

Laurie Santos

Rewirements are truly transformative in moving from not feeling great to thriving in your best life. However, it’s important to note that they may not be suitable for severe psychological conditions. In some cases, seeking personalized care from a psychotherapist is crucial.

Our unfavorable feelings serve as important signals. They tell us, “Hey, something is missing in your life. It’s time to make changes.”

The real magic happens when we put these strategies into action. By recognizing the common pitfalls in our thinking and embracing better habits, we can achieve genuine happiness and make it last. Remember, happiness is not just a state; it’s a continuous practice. Trust the process and embrace the journey.

Publisher: Natalie Glass

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