The How of Happiness – 5 Hows #5

So apparently before I wrote yesterdays post on the fourth “HOW” for making the most of the 12 happiness increasing activities listed in “The How of Happiness” by Sonja Lyubomirsky, I should have read ahead a little.

Yesterday I mentioned my own thoughts about programming being the best “motivation” and really what you need to do is make it a habit.  Well the fifth how is:


That’ll show me for trying to be smart.

So, first let me tell you what Sonja says about habit, then I’ll comment on how I see it.

According to Ms. Lyubomirsky, the best way to keep doing an activity is to make it a habit (I agree).  She talks about how habits form – essentially any behaviour we repeat starts to make connections in the brain that make it easier for us to do, and if we repeat it a lot it gets to the point of becoming a habit, where we don’t need to consciously think about it any more (I agree).

She also talks about the numbers when it comes to establishing habits and the perception that it is hard to do so and even harder to break old (bad) habits. She finds that many studies that site high numbers (86% of those who try to quit smoking  take it up again) are biased because they tend toward studying the “hard” cases, those who needed outside help to quit or go in for special treatments.  In these cases the habits are so deeply ingrained or there may be other factors which make it very hard to quit.  BUT  most studies simply ignore all the ordinary people who quit every day!  In fact, when you look at those people one study found a 63% success rate for quitters.  Now it wasn’t always easy and they didn’t all succeed the first time, but eventually, they quit for good and were successful.

So what does this tell us?

  1. Yes, it is work to create a habit.
  2. It is even more work to break or overwrite an old habit – but it can be done.
  3. Establishing the RIGHT kind of habit when starting your happiness practice means you’re setting yourself up for success.

What do I mean by the RIGHT kind of habit.

Sonja makes it very clear that what you want to do is create a habit of instigating the activity NOT creating a habit of doing the activity the same way all the time.

As we learned with HOW #2 – variety is key to keeping the activity going, so if the habit you create is to do it the same all the time, it will get stale quickly and you’ll lose interest.

What we want to create is a habit of thinking: Now I am going to … (insert name of activity), at a time that you have found works for you (remembering that you may need to experiment to find optimal timing).

I hope that makes sense.

So, yes, I agree with all of this.

AND I agree with her point that it will take some “motivation” or significant desire and PASSION to get into doing this because it will be a little bit of “effort” to start.

But really the effort will lay in the laying the foundation for the habit, in repeating the activity until it is programmed into you and you do it without thinking.

Next time we’ll start looking at the activities in depth.

Until then keep laughing and making it a habit.

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