What Shouldn’t Make you Happy, but Does!


“Enjoy the little things in life … for one day you’ll look back and realize
they were the big things” — Kurt Vonnegut


I spent the past ten years of my life working hard and when I reached the peak, I didn’t feel happy. Then, for a moment, I realized that I missed all about it somewhere during my arduous journey to chase my endless dreams. Sometimes, going through challenges, worries, and painful situations “shouldn’t make you happy, but does” as Sonja Lyubomirsky (2013) — a positive psychologist — subtitled her book about the myths of happiness.

You are driving, for example, to attend a very important conference when suddenly you have car troubles. It is not a happy incident at all. While waiting for a help, you start observing everything around — people talking, laughing, fighting, helping each other, or listening to the nature. You will learn a lot during this moment bringing some unexpected happiness to your heart and soul. When you get ill, you feel so sad. It is a natural feeling as a human being. However, this illness can provide you a chance to know yourself more and realize some strengths of your character that you never think of. This is a kind of misfortune that has a gift inside, but we can’t see.

Would you stop chasing happiness?

Because you already have it as Benjamin Foley argued in his article.

These small things happen by chance without planning, but they bring a lot of joy and happiness into your life. You may think that they are not the direct reasons behind your happy day, but they do. One of my favorite things in the world is playing with my niece and laughing from the bottom of my heart when I feel something is impossible to happen. Listening to my grandmother telling stories about her past was a little thing that I never forget. Even if she is no more, but I still remember her eyes glistening with passion and delight. Taking a wonderful photo for my close friends asking them to say cheese to draw a smile on their faces although I am not in is something I consider very big.

Simply, it is the human connection and the power of relationships.

Based on a body of research in the field of positive psychology, Sonja Lyubomirsky (2008) and her colleagues believed that happiness is determined by three factors as illustrated in the infographic below:

Source: INFOGRAPHIC: The Science of Happiness,
based on the ‘The How of Happiness” book by Lyubomirsky (2008)

Sonja Lyubomirsky argued that 50% of the variance in happiness is due to our genes. When you ask the question: “Why are some people happier than others?” About 50% of the answer lies in genetics. Some of us have sort of happier genes. About 10% lies in our life circumstances, some of us are richer, some are poorer, some are more or less attractive, more or less healthy. Life circumstances play a part in our happiness, but not as big as one might expect. You think you will be happier when you achieve more positive circumstances in your life. When you get a new job, or when you have a baby. But, the truth is that those things don’t affect our happiness as much as we think they will. This leaves 40 % of happiness under our control, under our power to change. This is what researchers work on. They study happy people — how do they behave? what do they think? And they found:

Happy people are really good at relationships. If you look at the happiest people, they all really have stable, fulfilling relationships, partnerships, friends, even with their pets they have good relationships.


Furthermore, there is a study conducted by Harvard University for 75 years. They have tracked the lives of 724 men, year after year, asking about their work, their home lives, their health, and of course asking all along the way without knowing how their life stories were going to turn out. To get the clearest picture of these lives, they don’t just send them questionnaires. They interview them in their living rooms. They get their medical records from their doctors. They draw their blood, they scan their brains, they talk to their children. They videotape them talking with their wives about their deepest concerns.

The lessons that they have generated on these lives aren’t about wealth or fame or working harder and harder. The clearest message that they get from this 75-year study is that good relationships keep us happier and healthier. They found people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community, are happier, they’re physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected.

Photo by Rose Lincoln on the Harvard Gazette

For more about this study, here is a video by Robert Waldinger on TED Talk


Have you noticed that small details bring us the most joy?

Vu confirmed this point of view in her book Just Little Things: A Celebration of Life’s Simple Pleasures, writing:

“Too often in our fast-paced world, these details go unnoticed, overshadowed by the stress of our daily routines. I believe we can shift our perceptions of life, and rediscover happiness, by paying attention to these simple, everyday details. The little things.”

It is not all about the money we have, or the things we own that can make us happy. But, it is the little things that we don’t find time to live and love ❤. We are humans. We are different. I am wondering, “What should make you happy, but doesn’t?


Works cited:

  1. Foley, Benjamin (2017, May 9). Stop Chasing Happiness and Realize You Already Have It [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://medium.com/personal-growth/stop-chasing-happiness-and-realize-you-already-have-it-77ed23bd37f7
  2. Happify Daily. The Science of Happiness [Infographic]. Retrieved from https://happify.com/hd/science-of-happiness-infographic/
  3. Lyubomirsky, Sonja (2013, February 20). On the Myths of Happiness [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/podcasts/item/sonja_lyubomirsky_on_the_myths_of_happiness
  4. Lyubomirsky, Sonja (2013). The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy but Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy but Does. New York: The Penguin Press.
  5. Lyubomirsky, Sonja (2008). The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want. New York: The Penguin Press.
  6. Mineo, Liz (2017, April 11). Harvard study, almost 80 years old, has proved that embracing community helps us live longer, and be happier. [Digital image taken by Rose Lincoln]. Retrieved April 12, 2018, from https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/04/over-nearly-80-years-harvard-study-has-been-showing-how-to-live-a-healthy-and-happy-life/
  7. Vu, Nancy (2013). Just Little Things: A Celebration of Life’s Simple Pleasures. New York: Penguin Group.
  8. Waldinger, Robert (2015, November). What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness [Video file]. Retrieved April 10, 2018, from https://www.ted.com/talks/robert_waldinger_what_makes_a_good_life lessons_from_the_longest_study_on_happiness.


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