Happiness Beliefs (Also Known as Growth Mindset for Happiness)
Did you know that your beliefs about happiness affect how much happiness you can create in your life? It's true. So what are your beliefs about happiness?
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Each one of us has different beliefs about what leads to happiness. These beliefs are really important because our beliefs about happiness actually affect how much happiness we can experience. In the activity below, you'll be invited to explore your current happiness beliefs to begin developing a growth mindset specifically for happiness.
Do You Believe Happiness Is a Skill?
It turns out that we don’t just find happiness, just as we would not find an ability to speak a new language or find the ability to play an instrument. Happiness, it turns out, is largely dependent on learning a specific set of skills—happiness skills.
Although it's completely normal to feel worse than we normally would when we are experiencing difficult circumstances, research shows we can learn to control, change, manage, and create emotional experiences. Some skills may be harder for you to learn, other skills may be easier. Some skills take longer to learn and others are take very little time. But the evidence is clear: You can improve the skills that generate more happiness.
How Happiness Grows in the Brain
The same parts of our brains that enable us to learn other skills actually also enable us to learn happiness skills. So we need to use the same strategies. To learn happiness skills well, we have to repeatedly practice using them, preferably in our real lives. So, for example, if you practice the happiness skills in our happiness program, you'll benefit more from using these skills in your real life (and we provide some strategies for how to do this).
And when building happiness, you have to be careful that you don't forget that happiness is a skill. Now, that doesn't mean you'll be happy all the time, even if you improve your happiness skills a ton. Human emotions fluctuate—they ebb and flow in response to daily events.
The goal when building happiness skills is to shift your "happiness set point". This means that overall, across all situations in your life, you'll feel a bit better. For some this means their lows aren't so low, their average emotional experience is a little happier, and their highs are little higher.
Why Happiness Beliefs Are Important
So where do happiness beliefs come in? Well in order to put in the work it takes to build any skill—happiness skills included—you have to believe it is something you can get better at. When you start believing that happiness is something that you can create, you are suddenly more motivated to create it. So it is really important that you work with your beliefs about happiness—both conscious and unconscious.
Use the activity below to start exploring your happiness beliefs and how you can shift them to work in your favor.
Activity: Happiness Beliefs
Take a moment to reflect on your happiness beliefs by answering the questions below.
What did people say about their happiness beliefs?
Thank you to everyone who submitted your responses to this activity! We can now share some of the strategies that our community is using to change their happiness beliefs.
Here's what folks said about how they plan to change their happiness beliefs:
If you want to work on some of these beliefs and skills, check out our happiness program.
It was inspiring to see that so many people in the Berkeley Well-Being Institute community know how they need to shift their happiness beliefs to benefit them personally.
But there was also a notable segment of our community that had a difficult time looking at happiness as a skill. This is completely understandable. If you've had to deal with difficult circumstances (job loss, depression, divorce, etc...) it can be hard to imagine that you have any control over your happiness. In these challenging circumstances, you definitely wont be as happy as someone who is not experiencing these difficulties.
But I hope you don't give up. A lot of self-help content focuses on skills that are difficult to learn or not suited to everyone. Often it just takes finding the right happiness skills—the skills that make a positive impact in your life. So if you're open to continue trying, here are some resources:
About Dr. Tchiki Davis
Dr. Davis is founder of The Berkeley Well-Being Institute. After getting her PhD in psychology at Berkeley, she started creating online content & programs to boost well-being—some of these have reached more than a million people. As author of Outsmart Your Smartphone, and contributor to Psychology Today, The Greater Good Science Center, and Shine Text, Dr. Davis aims to share her insights on happiness & health with people all across the world. Learn more about Dr. Davis.