What are the most important determinants of happiness?
What are the elements that deeply impact our capability to face life unpredictable events in an optimistic, wholehearted, adaptive way of take them as dreadful obstacles like hard snowy mountains to climb with flip flops on?
We were intrigued in reading what Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky, Professor of Psychology at University of California, Riverside and colleagues Ken Sheldon and Dave Vishcody have discovered during their researches in the field of Science of Happiness.
They have developed a theory that (sort of) answers our question.
Accordingly to this theory what makes us happy is very simplistic, as we can see form the pie chart above. The three scientists affirm that the numbers are the result of averages and approximations from many past studies, they are not set in stone, they are just good proxi.
Approximately fifty percent ( yes, 50%!!) of the variance in happiness is due to our genes. So, when you take look at all the people around you and if you ask yourself the question: "Why are some of us happier than others?" About fifty percent (50%) of the answer lies in genetics. Some of us just have sort of, happier genes, so to speak.
About ten percent (10%, only?) lies in our life circumstances.
This means that we all differ in our life circumstances, some of us are richer, some of us are poorer, some of us are more or less attractive, more or less healthy, and all of these elements do play a factor in our happiness.
Professor Lyubomirsky affirms that there’s a range from 8% to 20% in the studies they have made, and that 10% is in fact the best possible average.
This number is not as big as you might expect, in fact many people might be astonished to see that number being so small. We tend to think: "Oh I'll be happier when I achieve more positive circumstances in my life. When I get a new job, or when I get a boyfriend, when I have a baby, when I make more money ..." But, the truth is, those things don't affect our happiness as much as we think they will.
OUR INTENTIONAL ACTIVITIES
And here we are! That leaves forty percent ( yes ! 40%) of Happiness, quite a large number, that is under our control, under our power to change.
Professor Lyubomirsky, who is as well author of the book “The How of Happiness” affirms that all her work as a researcher is really about to give an answer to these questions:
“How do we harness that forty percent under our own control? What is it that we can do by the ways that we think, the ways that we behave in our daily lives that can affect our happiness level?”
One first approach taken by researchers is to start looking at what happy people do. When they find a group of people who are really successful at being happy, they want to find out what their secret is. What is it that they're doing? How do they behave, what do they think?
They study happy people. People that are already happy.
What did they found out?
Research shows that happy people are really good at relationships.
If you look at the happiest people, they all really have really stable, fulfilling relationships, partnerships, friends, even with their pets they have good relationships.
Happy People are more grateful and they tend to express gratitude very often, they are more helpful and philanthropic and tend to help and support others.
Happy people tend to be more optimistic about the future, they are more likely to live in the present.
They tend to savour pleasures in their life and make physical activity a habit. Happier people are often spiritual, or religious. Spirituality and religion aren't a prerequisite for happiness, but it is correlated with happiness.
Last but not least, happier people are deeply committed to goals.
They have significant meaningful life goals that they are pursuing, whether it's raising moral children, or building a house, or advancing in their career.
The results of studies on observing happy people are obviously correlational studies, this implies that researches don't really know whether these areas alone are producing happiness.
Just because a happy person does something, it does not mean that if we copy paste the same exact thing they do, we're automatically going to be happier, as these are just correlational finding. But it’s a starting point.
The question of how to become happier is a really interesting scientific question, and more studies are being conducted trying to find the true determinants of our happiness.On this blog we’ll provide more facts, evidences and happiness tips from Science of Happiness searches, based on neuroscience and psychology scientific research, lab experiments, tests and observations done by researchers working at projects in the Science of Happiness field at the top universities in the world.
Meanwhile, we can take examples from those who have succeeded in being happy people and start taking care of that 40% that is under our complete control and give our own try.
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