The Um, Joy of Happiness
Did you know that happiness is associated with all kinds of cool benefits?
- Physical & mental health
- Coping skills
- Work satisfaction
- Good relationships – with colleagues, friends, and loved ones
- Long life
- Immune system strength
- Liking yourself
- Liking others
- Effective conflict management.
That means happiness isn’t selfish. In fact, these benefits show that a happy person brings advantages to the family, workplace, economy, and society. You can feel great about making happiness your goal.
So given that happiness is a worthwhile pursuit, how exactly do you pursue it?
How To Be Happier
Let’s take a quick look at the dominant theory of happiness in psychology literature. It says that three factors contribute to your level of happiness:
- Circumstances & demographics – things like health, finances, and marital status
- Personality & genes – the ‘innate’ aspects of a person
- Intentional factors – deliberate actions you take, like pursuing a goal.
Now let’s look at how each of these affects your happiness level.
1. Circumstances And Demographics
The conditions of your life matter, but much less than you might think. Want to guess how much?
Only around 10 – 12% in total.
That’s right: the things most people chase wildly in search of happiness – money, marriage, material stuff – together make up only around a tenth of their happiness level.
And the story gets worse for this factor.
Changing your circumstances tends to make only a short-term difference to your happiness. A phenomenon called the hedonic treadmill means we quickly adjust to changes in our life circumstances – even big ones like winning the lottery or losing a limb – and return to our previous happiness levels.
You might want to remind yourself of this next time you think a sports car or awesome new boots* will change your life.
*Awesome new boots will change my life.
2. Personality And Genes
This factor makes a pretty big difference to happiness. In fact about half of your happiness level is related to genes and personality.
The thing is, there’s not much we can do about this factor.
So let’s look at what we can do.
3. Intentional Factors
Now we come to the good news. In fact, three pieces of good news.
- Unlike life conditions, intentional factors make a sizable contribution to your happiness – up to 40%
- Unlike genes, intentional factors are under your control
- The happiness benefits of intentional factors are longer lasting.
So what are these mystical intentional factors we speak of?
Not so mystical. Here are some examples of intentional factors that are linked to greater happiness:
- Cognitive or thinking activities such as
- Counting blessings
- Noticing good things
- Consciously feeling gratitude
- Behavioral or doing activities such as
- Exercising regularly
- Engaging in a hobby
- Volitional activities such as
- Striving for a goal
- Working on a skill.
I was thrilled when, while researching and writing my thesis on happiness, I learned that we can all be happier. Even high-neuroticism, low-extraversion personality types like me. We can do it by focusing more on intentional factors and paying less attention to the other stuff.
It changed how I make decisions and made me a happier person. Most of the time. If I’ve had my coffee.
And it lead me to start this website and create my organizing programs, which basically help people to focus more on intentional factors in their lives.
If you want to enjoy more of the benefits of happiness – for others as well as for yourself – then think about adding more of these intentional factors into your own life.
You’ll be glad (haha) you did.