The highly sensitive person (HSP) thrives in a supportive atmosphere. We can learn a lot about creating that atmosphere from positive psychology. With its focus on happiness and the factors that help individuals and communities thrive, it is a good fit for the HSP. Instead of endlessly trying to fix what we don’t like about ourselves, the research is clear that we can use our innate strengths and core abilities to crowd out the negative. In this post we identify ten misconceptions about happiness that stop many people from experiencing it more often.
We can increase our sense of flow, fit, belonging, and contribution. You too can become a more energized, effective, confidant, and authentic HSP.
We can follow the criticism and self-correction path on and on. Or, we can follow life’s joys and discover what we are good at. We may find that what we love to do is the very thing others also most appreciate. Often it is also what brings us the greatest rewards.
An increase in well being enriches all of life
Whether it’s receiving a compliment or basking in the glow of an achievement, we all know good feelings follow good events.
The surprise from the research is clear: good feelings also precede and predict good events.
According toMartin Seligman, Ph.D. and many other positive psychology researchers, there is compelling evidence that each person can learn to be lastingly happier. (The exception is the person with three or more health problems.) They tested a series of exercises and activities that increase positive emotion and have documented their effectiveness.
When you increase your happiness, it allows you to be more creative, improves your performance in sports, work, and school, boosts your health, makes it more likely that you will marry and stay married, and have more friends.
For most people over the long term being happy brings better results.
Authenticity Coaching favors positivity without the platitudes. You won’t be told “don’t worry–be happy” when you have legitimate concerns. While we focus on goals and solutions, the present and the future, in the process we won’t discount your feelings or those of others.
At the same time, we recognize that positive emotion broadens our perspective and illuminates a wider range of solutions.
These are the discoveries of the last fifteen years about happiness, and of the last forty-plus years on subjective well-being.
Dan Baker, Ph.D., wrote about the need for positive emotion, saying that:
Most problems are not emergencies. They’re chronic, complex situations that require rational thought, creativity and the other emotionally intelligent qualities that fear snuffs out. Fear’s spare repertoire–fighting, fleeing or freezing–is notoriously ineffective for resolving difficult situations.
Ten misconceptions about happiness according to recent research
If you are convinced that happy people are usually foolish and often clueless, you may be missing out on the gains possible in your own happiness, friendships, and productivity.
Here are some of the myths and, with them, what science has discovered to the contrary.
Myth 1: Happy people are airheads…frivolous and oblivious
Maybe you believe that happy people are unaware and ineffective. Supposedly, they make more mistakes and generally make fools of themselves. But, when researchers contrasted happiness with neutral or negative feelings, there were a wide range of positive effects possible.
Intelligence, creativity and energy rise. You make better decisions and better friends.
Your system calms, reducing the effect of stress. These effects are part of a wide body of research showing that positive emotion has value beyond feeling good for the moment.
Researcher Shawn Achor in a2011 articlein the Harvard Business Review wrote:
Everyone knows someone who is brilliant and unhappy. And everyone knows someone who is successful and not happy…and when you see these two types of individuals, it is easy for us to assume that happiness has nothing to do with success or intelligence, or is even antithetical to it.
On the contrary, a decade of research suggests that both of those individuals (smart/ unhappy, and successful/ unhappy) are actually significantly under-performing what their brain can do…if you raise their levels of positive emotion, their cognitive abilities and success rates go up…every person has a range of potential–in terms of intelligence, athletic ability, musicality, creativity, and productivity–and we are more likely to achieve the upper bounds [when we are] feeling positive, rather than negative or neutral.
Myth 2: Happiness means annoying people with your relentlessly sunny personality
This misconception about happiness claims that it is an affront to those who suffer.
Positive emotions, happiness, and life satisfaction come in different “flavors” and can include serenity, contentment, inspiration, elevation, awe, and appreciation. Being happy generally means you are more, not less, aware of the feelings of others.
The late Christopher Peterson, Ph.D., a leader in the positive psychology movement, wrote in his blogThe Good Lifethat
…appropriate cheerfulness should be our goal, and that involves taking into account who is on the receiving end of our expressed emotions.
Myth 3: Either you have the happiness gene or you don’t
This is partly true; when you look at research samples in the U. S., genes appear to produce about half of the tendency to be happy, circumstances about 10%.
The rest is due to where you focus, how you regard what happens to you, and how you respond.
Making changes in that 40% you control means living closer to the top of the window of possibilities that your genetic set-point provides, according toSonja Lyubomirsky,author of The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want.
Keep in mind that these are averages. For you as an individual, a change that would make a major shift in your happiness might make less difference for someone else.
Myth 4: You need money to be happy
Again, this is partly true, but once your basic needs are met, more money nets decreasing amounts of happiness. Some surveys show rich people are slightly happier, but not much happier than others.
If having more money is the result of longer hours, the extra time and effort tend to cancel out an increase in satisfaction. This is especially true if those longer hours replace time with family and friends.
Myth 5: Being happy means being out of touch with reality in all its gritty aspects
Being happy does not mean ignoring the amount of suffering and pain in the world, or the family down the block or across town who hasn’t enough money for this week’s groceries.
It doesn’t mean resting on your laurels and refusing to see that the competition now has a better product and a better marketing program.
Nor does it mean rejecting disconfirming information when you need to see the truth.
Seligman also reminds us that we want our airline pilot, air traffic controller, or accountant less focused on fun and more absorbed in the task at hand.
Often, however, tunnel vision is the result of unhappiness; negative emotion narrows both our perspective and our ability to find creative responses to a problem.
When you experience bad self-doubt, you simply don’t do the things you need to do, are scared to try new activities, and lose the motivation to perform. It prompts defensive actions to avoid failure that can limit your growth and change.
This narrowing of options is true for many of the negative emotions. You may remember times when you made a poor choice because your thinking was clouded by anger or fear.
Myth 6: It's selfish to be happy
Another of the misconceptions about happiness is that it will make you oblivious to the needs and feelings of others. In fact, happier people are less selfish and more likely to be helpful. In addition, much of our happiness comes from the win-win of good relationships.
Dr. Martin Seligman, considered “the father of positive psychology,” says that “other people are the best antidote to the downs of life and the single most reliable up.”
Life satisfaction researchersDavid Myers and Ed Dienerwrite that if you want to increase your sense of well-being, you might focus on the “goals involving growth, connection, and contribution rather than goals involving money, beauty, and popularity.”
Myth 7: Being optimistic means putting yourself at risk by ignoring obvious dangers
Optimistic people are more likely to seek medical care when they have an unexplained symptom.
Reasonable, realistic optimism means believing that taking informed and timely action increases your chances of solving medical and other problems.
Myth 8: It’s a waste of time to even try to be happy
At any given time, usually more is going right than going wrong. You can be effective without getting stuck in gloom.
People who are otherwise generally happy are just as concerned about a spouse in surgery, a parent dying, or a job loss. At the same time they may be more likely to see and act on opportunities to make better the parts of the situation that they can change.
Myth 9: Looking on the bright side means quashing your feelings
Joy leads to play and creativity, and contentment leads to savoring the good things in life. The positive emotions can also lead us to explore new friendships, building a resource for the future through social connectedness.
Anger, on the other hand, helps us recognize transgressions and to stand up for loved ones or ourselves. Fear helps us take action to move away from a danger or to reduce risk.
Ideally, you would allow yourself to experience a full range of emotion, and match your approach to the situation.
Myth 10: Positivity is nothing more than a rehash of positive thinking: “I am getting better every day in every way”
Research shows that repeating affirmations often brings up feelings of pessimism, denial, and shame. Positivity means positive emotions, not positive self-talk.
Apart from the immediate effect, affirmations may not help us reach our goals.Kappes and Oettingenreport research that suggests visualizing a great outcome creates a bubble of contentment, but gets in the way of actually taking action. It may feel like you’ve already succeeded.
…while optimism is a critical component of conceiving goals, it can also be crippling when it comes to actually working toward them. In fact, a cheery disposition and good attitude can zap the motivation needed to mobilize and strategize, leaving us with lofty ideas that never reach fruition. In other words, dreaming isn’t doing.
In her bookSucceed: How We Can Reach Our GoalsHeidi Grant Halvorson recommends thinking positively about goals and realistically about the steps to achieving them. “Visualize,” she says, “the steps you will take in order to succeed.”