Moving the Set Point of Happiness
Why are some team members, colleagues, and family members unable to bounce back from a negative episode and regain their smile?
Better yet, why do some of those we lead seem to rarely smile? When it comes to our sense of wellbeing, we have something called a set point for happiness. The idea behind this theory is that everyone has a different level, or set point, for happiness irrespective of what they experience.
According to this view, people who seem to be happier than others have a naturally higher set point, while those with a low set point are mostly unhappy. Of course, many people fall somewhere in between.
Even those with high set points experience unhappiness at times. We all have our emotional ups and downs and face challenges that are either uplifting or insurmountable.
But these episodes of happy and unhappy moments are temporary. No matter what life throws at us, our happiness eventually returns to the same set point.
This explains why some people who are dealt a tragic blow, such as losing eyesight, a home, hearing, or a loved one eventually find their way back to happiness, while others don’t.
It also explains why some team members never seem to find the positive frame of mind that encourages goodwill between colleagues. Team members with a very low setpoint of happiness find it exceedingly difficult to find the joy in just about anything.
Even though a person’s set point is an inherited trait, the good news is the set point only accounts for about 50 percent of the difference in happiness from person to person. This means everyone controls a degree of the happiness they experience.
It should come as no surprise that studies have shown the expression of gratitude also has a powerful influence on happiness.
When we frequently recount the people and experiences we are grateful for, we experience more joy. When gratefulness is on the daily diet of activities we prioritize, we can even recalibrate our set point, moving it higher.
The bottom line is that the portion of happiness we experience is equally dependent on the quality of our thoughts. Of the many cognitions central to a quality life, perhaps none is more important than gratitude.
Happier people are quick to remind us it is not happiness that makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us happier.