Are you happy – really happy? Before you give your final answer, you may want to hear how the happiest people on earth describe being at the top end of the continuum:
- My heart is warmed every day when I think of how deeply loved I am.
- A contented smile spreads across my face several times a day as I let others know how much I love them.
- Most people are happier after they’ve been around me.
- I break out into a hardy laugh several times during the day.
- People often seek me out for advice and support.
- When I wonder if I’m good enough to handle my problems, I have an inner voice that responds with a reassuring “Yes!”
- I feel I’m stronger because of the adversities I’ve overcome.
- I find myself deeply moved during the course of your day by the beauty of ordinary moments.
- My love of life grows almost every day.
- I routinely rejuvenate my body, mind and spirit every day.
- If I died today, I’d be satisfied with the full life I’ve led.
How many of these statements apply to you? If it’s 9 or more, you’ve achieved a very high level of happiness. If you checked 5-8, you’ve got lessons to learn. Four of less indicates you’re probably struggling.
Whatever your current level of wellbeing, you have an inner wellspring you can tap into whenever you need replenish your supply of happiness. You possess the capability to craft the best life possible by cultivating this key inner ingredient in order to fundamentally transform how you feel, what you think, and how you deal with the world around you.
What is this inner ingredient? Positivity. To be a happy person means that for every negative emotion you experience, you’re able to generate more than 3 positive feelings.
According to numerous studies described by Barbara Fredrickson in her book, Positivity, there is strong empirical evidence demonstrating that your happiness hinges on this mathematical ratio.
In order for human beings to flourish, Fredrickson argues, we need to get essential daily nutrients—not only from food, but also from a laugh, a hug or even a smaller moment of positive emotion.
The further you fall below the 3:1 threshold, the deeper you drop into dysfunction and dissatisfaction. A wide variety of studies have shown that people who are unhappy, couples whose marriages are failing, and business teams that are unprofitable and unpopular all have positive to negative ratios of 1:1 or below.
Conversely, your spirits will soar when you’re able to generate four, five or six good feelings to offset each and every unhappy emotion that besets you. Happy marriages have been found to have more than 5 positive exchanges for every negative encounter. High functioning business teams have ratios of at least 6:1.
The 3:1 threshold represents a “tipping point.” An apt illustration to explain how a tipping point works would be ice and water. You know that temperature can create a tipping point in which water undergoes a radical transformation past a certain point, in this case when the temperature drops below 32 degrees. A slight shift produces a big change. Ice seems very different than water because it’s a solid mass, rigid and inflexible. Water, on the other hand, is just the opposite – it’s a fluid, flowing, flexible liquid.
The marvel, of course, is that ice and water are exactly the same substance, simply demonstrating vastly different characteristics depending on the degree of cold or warmth that is present. Changing the temperature transforms the state of the water from being a hard mass that cannot change its shape without shattering into a soft substance that easily adapts to fit well into its surroundings.
The difference between being happy and unhappy shows similar properties. If you warm up your emotional state by increasing the amount of positivity you experience until you get above the 3:1 threshold, you’ll have pushed yourself past the tipping point necessary for happiness.
By consistently creating 4 or more positive emotions for every negative, you’ll be in a state that allows you to transform your level of satisfaction with your life. It’s very difficult to control the number of negative experiences that happen to us. Being human means we’ll make mistakes, others will wrong us, and bad situations will befall us.
By creating abundant positivity, however, it’s possible to ‘tip’ away from being frozen in a negative state to living in a life characterized by warm emotions and passionate energy for overcoming challenges.