What have today’s happiness scientists learned?
By Polly Jensen | Posted 7.11.2017
That’s right, there are actually happiness scientists. They spend their days and their lives working to find the formula – what do we need to do to be happy. Are you curious what they’ve learned?
One important happiness scientist is Sonja Lyubomirsky. This mother of four is a psychology professor and author of the best-seller, The How of Happiness, A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want.
In her decades of research, Dr. Lyubomirsky uncovered the source of happiness. Her results are so instructive that it’s easy to apply her findings to our own lives.
10% of our happiness comes from circumstance. This includes all the things that happen in our lives – the good, the bad and the indifferent. On the upside, it’s meeting the love of our dreams, finding our perfect job, buying a home – all the good things of life. On the downside, it’s the loss of a job, illness, the death of someone we love and other painful life experience.
50% of our happiness comes from our genetics. We’re born to it, our ancestors handed down what amounts to about half of our personal level of happiness. Yes, if you wish, you can point to your Great Aunt Monica or Grandpa Ben – not just for the color of your eyes but also for a large part of your happiness.
40% of our happiness is our own to decide – it’s our own mind, our own habits and our own actions that determine that much of our happiness.
Are you surprised? It’s natural to want to poke holes, to say, yeah, but she didn’t know about the car crash that changed my life or that huge amount of money coming my way – those are circumstances that will change everything.
Well, not so fast. There will always be circumstances that make us either super happy or super unhappy. It’s the way the world works. What we don’t think about when we’re on a high or a low is that, in time, we’ll return to our original happiness point, the point before the happy or sad event. We go back to our normal. We adapt to the facts of our lives. Changes become our new normal.
The forty percent solution
We’re in charge. It’s what we do with what we’ve got that makes the difference. If we’re super tall, it’s unlikely we’ll be successful as a jockey but we might consider basketball. On the other hand, super tallness doesn’t have to dictate what we will or won’t do. Could be we’re a math whiz who is a great dancer and a fabulous cook.
How we work with what we’ve got – the circumstances and the genetic disposition – is what will lead us to happiness and well-being. It’s what we could call the forty percent solution. Perhaps the most tantalizing outcome of Lyubomirsky’s research is the discovery that we are in charge of forty percent of our happiness.
It all adds up. The things we do, the things we say, the things we think along with all the things we don’t do add up – the sum of all these things makes a difference in our happiness, in our feeling of well-being.
Resource: Lyubomirsky, Sonja. The How of Happiness, A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want. New York, New York: Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2007.