How To Be Happier

By Michele Connolly

The Joy of Happiness!

Did you know that happiness is associated with all kinds of benefits? They include:

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  • Physical & mental health
  • Coping skills
  • Resilience
  • Work satisfaction
  • Good relationships – with colleagues, friends and loved ones
  • Long life
  • Immune system strength
  • Liking yourself
  • Altruism
  • Liking others
  • Effective conflict management

That means happiness isn’t selfish. In fact, these benefits show that a happy person brings positive advantages to the family, workplace, economy and society. You can feel great about making happiness your goal!

So given that happiness is worth pursuing, 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:

  1. Circumstances & demographics – things like health, finances and marital status
  2. Personality & genes – the ‘innate’ aspects of a person
  3. 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 & demographics

The conditions of your life matter, but much less than you might think – only around 10% in total.

That’s right: the things many people pursue avidly in search of happiness – like money, cars, and material possessions – 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 – and return to our previous happiness levels.

You might want to remind yourself about this next time you’re choosing between job options.

2. Personality & genes

This factor makes a pretty big difference to happiness – in fact about half of your happiness level is related to genes and personality.

But 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.

  • First, intentional factors make a sizable contribution to your happiness – about 40%
  • Second, changing these factors is under your control
  • Third, the happiness benefits are longer lasting

So what are these magical intentional factors?

Here are some examples of intentional factors that are linked to boosting happiness:

  • Cognitive, or thinking, activities – eg
    • Counting blessings
    • Noticing good things
    • Consciously feeling gratitude
  • Behavioural, or doing, activities – eg
    • Exercising regularly
    • Engaging in a hobby
  • Volitional activities – eg
    • Striving for a goal
    • Working on a skill.

I was so thrilled when I learned (while researching and writing my thesis on happiness) that we can all be happier by focusing more on intentional factors and paying less attention to the other stuff. It’s changed how I make decisions and made me a happier person – most of the time. And it’s actually what lead me to create Life & Goal Organizer, which is basically a tool to help people focus more on intentional factors in their lives.

If you want to enjoy more of the benefits of happiness – for others as well as yourself – then think about incorporating more of these intentional factors into your own life. You’ll be ‘glad’ you did.


How To Be Happier – References

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