A young man reading a book with a cityscape in the background.

How much do our circumstances influence our happiness? How is happiness like a muscle? How important are gratitude and forgiveness?

Psychology professor Sonja Lyubomirsky says that happiness is more than just a positive state of mind. It’s a state of being that enhances your health, strengthens your relationships, and fuels both your creativity and productivity.

Keep reading for several Sonja Lyubomirsky quotes from The How of Happiness.

Sonja Lyubomirsky Quotes

Drawing from her extensive research as well as insights from leading scientists in the positive psychology field, Sonja Lyubomirsky unpacks the factors that fuel happiness and provides practical strategies to nurture and sustain it. We’ve collected a few Sonja Lyubomirsky quotes from The How of Happiness and provided them along with some context and explanation to help you grasp Lyubomirsky’s points.

“Happiness is not out there for us to find. The reason that it’s not out there is that it’s inside us.”

According to Lyubomirsky, your circumstances account for just 10% of your long-term happiness. She clarifies that, while major life events may impact how happy you feel—for example, you might feel happier when you get married or less happy if you lose a loved one—big shifts will usually be temporary. Over time, you’ll naturally revert to your happiness baseline (established by your genetics). Lyubomirsky stresses that, while you can’t change your happiness baseline, you can control 40% of the happiness you feel by consciously choosing to think and behave in positive ways.

“Gratitude is an antidote to negative emotions, a neutralizer of envy, hostility, worry, and irritation. It is savoring; it is not taking things for granted; it is present oriented.”

According to Lyubomirsky, regularly acknowledging and expressing thanks for what’s going well in your life enables you to find joy even in mundane experiences or when life isn’t going to plan. This attitude helps combat the effects of hedonic adaptation, prolonging the pleasure you derive from your circumstances.

“Forgiving people are less likely to be hateful, depressed, hostile, anxious, angry, and neurotic.”

This quote is in the context of relationships, which Lyubomirsky says play an important role in your happiness. Strong relationships provide you with happy moments to share and a support system for when things get tough. One relationship-strengthening strategies she suggests is forgiveness and moving forward: Reflect on personal growth from past hurts, understand the perspectives of those who’ve wronged you, and engage in rituals that symbolize letting go. Lyubomirsky says that forgiving others, whether it involves reconciliation or not, fosters empathy and understanding, paving the way for genuine bonds.

“The face of happiness may be someone who is intensely curious and enthusiastic about learning; it may be someone who is engrossed in plans for his next five years; it may be someone who can distinguish between the things that matter and the things that don’t; it may be someone who looks forward each night to reading to her child. Some happy people may appear outwardly cheerful or transparently serene, and others are simply busy. In other words, we all have the potential to be happy, each in our own way.”

This quote reflects Lyubomirsky belief that, for positive thoughts and behaviors to impact happiness, they must resonate with you personally. She explains that happiness is subjective—we all have unique values and temperaments that influence how we respond to experiences. In other words, a strategy that makes one person happy won’t necessarily elicit the same response in another. Therefore, the more happiness-boosting strategies feel personal to you, the more likely they are to work.

“Once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it; you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.”

This quote illustrates Lyubomirsky’s argument that you’re more likely to regularly practice strategies that resonate with you—which Lyubomirsky says is key to enhancing long-term happiness. Think of happiness as a muscle: Just as sporadic exercise won’t significantly strengthen your muscles, occasional engagement in happiness-boosting activities won’t impact your long-term happiness. On the other hand, much like regular workouts compound over time to increase strength and endurance, consistently practicing happiness-boosting strategies leads to upward spirals of happiness.

Sonja Lyubomirsky Quotes With Context (The How of Happiness)

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.