Hands up those of you who think winning the lottery will make you happier? Then, hands up those who think becoming a paraplegic will make you happier?
Are you thinking the former will make you happier than the latter? Well, you’d probably be wrong.
Research has shown that comparing these two incidents, one year later, the person who won the lottery was equally as happy as the person who lost the use of their legs.
Why would that be? Well, if you win the lottery, everything changes and I do mean everything. They tend to pack in their jobs and there’s not the ‘need’ to go to work. Instead there’s a potential for ‘emptiness’ that needs to be filled. There can be a lack of commonality that links them together with their friends now they’re doing different things. Even their children can gauge that all of a sudden everyone wants to be their best friend, and even children know there’s something not quite right about that. Not all of this becomes apparent immediately, but over a year research has shown that it’s not all as sunny side up as you might think.
Then research looked at those who became paraplegic. Depending on their attitude, they might create a common bond with others in the same situation. They can get a great sense of achievement out of very small accomplishments. Their need to keep earning money and get to work is still there. Friends can become closer as a supportive network. All this can have a positive effect on someone who’s been through a trauma, if the mindset is right!
So, what determines happiness after either of the above events? Apparently, it’s down to how you were before the event, your attitude to life.
It’s been discovered that if you have a major life trauma more than three months ago, then it probably won’t be affecting your happiness today (in the majority of cases). Whether that’s true or not again tends to depend on your mindset or, in other words, back to that word ‘attitude’.
There’s a chap called Charles Swindoll, who famously said:
“I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”
I was talking to a client the other day and we were musing on the fact that so many people were now going round in a negative state at the moment. I relayed the thoughts of my Mother’s memories of WW2 – that it could bring people together. However, one of the big differences was that back then she’d go to the cinema once a week to watch the news reel and, as she recalls, although there would be bad news, there would be a ‘rallying of the troops’ feel about some of the news items. There was a positive attitude intertwined with the bad news.
Nowadays, we can be swamped with a constant flow of bad news. The television and radio can have a constant flow of ‘news’ but it’s rarely good – is it? Then there’s the negative folk on social media! But we can do something about it, we can limit our exposure (should we wish to).
It basically all comes back to us and our attitude. Do we want to switch on the news automatically and feed our minds with the latest horror story? Or, do we want to make ourselves happier and watch something amusing – by the way, have you seen Michael McIntyre’s dentist sketch? We can still keep up to speed with what’s going on in the world by reading the internet headlines without immersing ourselves in the guts of the story, or by researching for ourselves the facts as opposed to a fair bit of fiction!
As Charles Swindoll says, it’s 10% the situation and 90% about us. If I were to ask you ‘What has been good about your day so far’, I know that you will move into the positive intellectual part of your brain as it goes off to trawl through the events of the day. This will be much more beneficial to our happiness than if we say, ‘Oh my goodness, what a nightmare, when is this ever going to end!’
So, in these interesting times, what has been good about your day? I don’t mean big stuff (remember, the lottery win rarely makes anyone happier), I mean the small stuff, really small. The more you focus on that, the happier you will be.
I’ll leave you with a final comment from Mr Swindoll:
“And so it is with you...we are in charge of our attitudes.”