The Happiness Question
Have you ever wondered why some people remain upbeat and positive despite the chaos that surrounds them while others are utterly miserable even in good times? What explains the difference between these two groups of individuals?
Are happy people just lucky people born happy? And unhappy people born miserable? Or is happiness a choice we make day by day, moment to moment?
The answer to this question is twofold. On one hand, 50% of happiness is predetermined by biology (e.g., inborn temperament) while the remaining 50% is influenced by life circumstances and intentional activities.
The Happiness Formula
As shown above, research indicates that approximately 40% of happiness is intentional activities (e.g., daily exercise, meditation, forgiveness), 10% is life circumstances (e.g., income), and 50% is genetic (e.g., temperament),
Though we may have little control over genetics and/or life circumstances — we do have personal agency when it comes to intentional activities. Be it a walk around the block, gardening in the backyard, or simply relaxing by the fire.
Being an optimist (and a positive psychologist), I tend to focus on the parts of life where I have influence. For both myself, and the people around me.
Even though you might not be the happiest (or healthiest, or richest, or most zen) person in the room, you (like me) have room (potential) to grow and expand – no matter your life circumstances or genetic make up.
The Happiness Webcast
In the presentation below, I explore the happiness formula (genetics vs. environment) in more detail. Including: 1) the developmental origins of happiness, 2) how individual differences in personality affect happiness, and 3) the paradoxical relationship between traumatic life experiences and happiness (posttraumatic growth).
Click on Is Happiness a Choice to learn more.
The video is in webcast format so it requires Adobe software.
It will run on your computer, but might not work on your phone.
Special note: I take medical conditions such as clinical depression and anxiety into account when discussing “Is Happiness a Choice?” in my webcast. I underscore that intentional activities such as meditation, exercise, and proper nutrition will not cure mental illness, though they will help tremendously.
For example, medical research has demonstrated that exercise (an intentional activity) improves mood in individuals with anxiety and depression. And in turn, enhances personal agency and locus of control ⇐ the number one (environmental) contributor to happiness.
The Happiness Choice
- Celebrate your one-of-a-kind happiness. Do not compare it to your brother or your sister, or to a neighbour or a (facebook) friend. FOMO is the “thief of joy”. For what determines your happiness is unique to you to you, and only you.
- Embrace your freedom to choose experiences within your control (e.g., gratitude, helping others, forgiveness ), and the power to let go of what is not (e.g., the past, the opinion of others, the weather).
- Need help getting started? Try any or all of these 13 simple intentional activities over the course of a month, a day, or a year. The choice is yours!
Related Post: You hold the key.