The Myths of Happiness | Sonja Lyubomirsky

Summary of: The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, But Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, But Does
By: Sonja Lyubomirsky


In today’s fast-paced world, we often attach our happiness to achieving certain milestones. But what if these milestones, such as getting married or landing the perfect job, aren’t the keys to happiness we’ve come to believe they are? ‘The Myths of Happiness’ dives deep into this notion of chasing an ideal while highlighting that the true recipe for happiness cannot simply be pinned down to achieving certain goals. The book emphasizes the significance of human adaptability, hedonic adaptation, and how embracing the power of happiness even in the face of life’s adversities can help us live more fulfilled lives.

The Harmful Myth of Milestones

The pursuit of happiness is often tied to achieving socially prescribed milestones such as marriage or career advancements. However, attaining these milestones rarely results in lasting happiness. Studies show that we overestimate the positive impact of such events and underestimate our ability to overcome negative ones. Those who have experienced adversity are often happier than those who haven’t. This is because surviving hardship equips us with the skills to overcome it again and negative events can catalyze beneficial changes in life. Therefore, abandoning the harmful myth that happiness hinges on achieving superficial milestones is crucial in achieving true happiness.

Love and Happiness

Your wedding day is not the happiest day of your life, and marriage won’t bring you consistent happiness. This is because of hedonic adaptation, which explains how humans adapt to positive changes. Passionate love is a thrilling kind of love, but it has a limited life span. After passionate love, companionate love that is rooted in trust and respect for our partner takes over. This practical type of love helps us navigate through challenges that may occur in our relationship. Therefore, if you feel like the thrill of your relationship is gone, don’t give up yet. You may be transitioning to a healthy new phase of attachment.

Keeping the Spark Alive

Don’t let your relationship fall into routine and monotony. Even when the honeymoon phase is over, there are simple strategies you can use to keep the passion and excitement alive.

It’s common for long-term relationships to lose the spark that was once there. However, this doesn’t mean you have to settle for a comfortable but passionless life. The key is to counteract hedonic adaptation, which causes us to stop noticing the positives in our relationship.

To combat this, there are three simple strategies to help perceive all the positives with fresh eyes. First, you need to cultivate appreciation for your partner. Resist taking them for granted and focus on the things you love about them. Second, keep things surprising by finding new adventures for both you and your partner. Finally, physical touch is an essential element in romantic relationships. Even the simplest gestures like touching your partner’s arm can rejuvenate passion and foster intimacy.

In conclusion, a long-term relationship doesn’t mean the end of passion and excitement. Simple changes and effort can make all the difference. Rediscovering love and happiness with your partner is within reach if you’re willing to put in the work.

The Happiness in Divorce

Many people remain in broken marriages due to the belief that divorce leads to unhappiness. However, divorce, while tough, may not be as debilitating or permanent as imagined. Humans possess a capacity for resilience that allows for coping with trauma and growing from crises. Surveys show that happiness levels among divorcées rise substantially in the long term. Divorcing individuals often overlook the daily uplifts and commitments that fill their days, leading to a more moderate view of the pain of divorce. Toxic marriages can lead to sustained misery, making divorce a viable and potentially happier alternative.

The Myth of the Perfect Job

There’s no such thing as a “perfect job,” and chasing after one may not bring happiness.

Do you hate your job? Are you constantly daydreaming about leaving work and counting down the hours until you can leave? You may be thinking that a better job will bring you happiness, but the truth is that there is no perfect job.

A five-year study in 2005 tracked the happiness levels of managers who were promoted or transferred to a new city. While their satisfaction surged in the first year, their happiness levels returned to baseline shortly after. This is due to hedonic adaptation, where we quickly become accustomed to the perks of a new job and eventually feel the same level of dissatisfaction as before.

Rather than searching for a new job, consider whether it’s your internal comparison to others that’s driving your dissatisfaction. In the age of social media, it’s easy to compare our careers to others and feel inadequate. Don’t base your job satisfaction on superficial comparisons to other people’s careers.

To be happier at work, cultivate appreciation for the things you do enjoy about your job and stop comparing yourself to others. There’s no such thing as a perfect job, but with a change in perspective, you can find happiness in your current role.

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