Learn the secrets of happiness, what it really is and how you can become happier.
Happiness is a universal human goal. Aristotle recognized this over two-thousand years ago, when he said, “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”
If generation after generation seeks greater happiness, why is it that depression is at an all time high in developed countries, and the onset of depression is occurring at younger and younger ages? Positive psychology research is bringing the tools for greater happiness within everyone’s reach.
The Components Contributing to Happiness
Positive psychology studies identify three components contributing to an individual’s happiness:
- Set point
- Intentional Activities.
Set point is a person’s natural level of happiness; some people are just naturally happier than others. Research studies find that set point contributes about fifty-percent of a person’s overall happiness.
The set point of happiness derives from inherited genetics and childhood upbringing, and, therefore, is not within one’s control.
Circumstances are the second component of happiness. Circumstances include a person’s health, financial situation, relationship situations, and a wide array of other environmental factors over which a person has limited control.
Psychology studies indicate about ten-percent of one’s overall happiness derives from life’s circumstances.
Intentional Activities are those things people do because the activity is pleasant and brings feelings of happiness. Since intentional activities are totally within a person’s control, this is the area one should address to find greater happiness.
Fortunately, intentional activities contribute about forty-percent of one’s overall happiness, thereby providing a significant opportunity to find happiness through chosen activities.
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The Secret of Happiness
Most people seek greater happiness by addressing their circumstances—such as trying to make more money, landing a better job, finding a better relationship, moving to a better part of town, or buying a new car.
Evaluating the three components of happiness—set point, circumstances, and activities—suggests that the secret of happiness is to address the single component one can control—intentional activities.
Sadly, most people focus on circumstances, a happiness component over which they have little control, and more importantly, a component contributing only ten-percent to overall happiness.
The limited impact of circumstances on happiness seems counter-intuitive at first glance. Getting a raise or promotion, finding a new relationship, or buying something new, such as a car or new clothing, does make a person happier.
However, this happiness is short-lived due to a phenomenon psychologists term hedonic adaptation, which means that humans tend to adjust rather quickly to life circumstances.
The new car brings a rush of good feelings for the first few days or weeks, but those feelings gradually fade as the proud owner adjusts and the new car becomes just a car.
This phenomenon is observed with even significant changes in wealth. After a year, lottery winners return to their level of happiness before winning, having adjusted to the new level of wealth.
Intentional Activities that Bring Happiness
Positive psychology researcher, Sonja Lyubomirsky identifies twelve activities proven to bring greater happiness in her book, The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want (Penguin Press, 2008).
Dr. Lyubomirsky is Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside with an undergraduate degree with honors from Harvard University and a Ph.D. from Stanford University.
Happiness Enhancing Strategies
Dr. Lyubomirsky’s strategies involve ways of being, doing, and thinking that have been shown to increase happiness in controlled psychological studies. These strategies include:
- Counting your blessings, expressing gratitude for what you have;
- Cultivating optimism, learning to think optimistically;
- Avoiding dwelling on problems and social comparisons;
- Practicing acts of kindness;
- Nurturing Relationships;
- Doing more activities that truly engage you;
- Savoring life’s joys;
- Committing to goals;
- Developing strategies for coping;
- Learning to forgive;
- Practicing religion and spirituality; and
- Taking care of your body.
Take Control, Find Happiness Through Activities
Take control and find greater happiness by choosing things to do and ways of thinking that bring greater pleasure.
The secret of happiness is to focus on what can be controlled and accept what cannot, choosing to engage in activities bringing lasting pleasure.