As it turns out, or at least according to Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D. and her research, there are three overarching factors that contribute to a person’s happiness. Those factors and the approximate proportion of happiness they attribute to our overall sense of happiness are as follows:
- Genetic predisposition – 50%
- Life circumstances – 10%
- Behaviors and thoughts – 40%
While the first factor is well outside of our control, and the second factor is in the grey area, the final factor is firmly within our grasp. I personally believe that many of life’s circumstances are well within our control too, but that is a conversation for another time. For now, let’s stick to what is uncontroversial and within our control – our behaviors and thoughts.
In Dr. Lyubmirsky’s book she points to eight subcategories of behaviors and thought patterns the happiest people exhibit.
While some of these may seem obvious they can be incredibly difficult to pursue at once on an individual basis. In-fact, the author even says as much in her book. However, I would recommend a systems based strategy where by the use of a web of goals will get you there with much less fuss than trying to tackle all of these individually. In my example below, I pursue three things which are simultaneously interdependent and self reinforcing. This provides a certain amount of homeostasis resulting in a more robust system.
While this more closely aligns with my lifestyle choices, I think you will find that you can arrange these factors around your own pursuits to build a web of goals which support each other like I have. In my example, you can see that by being an athlete I am building in happiness with the factors of daily exercise and savoring life’s pleasures. What might not be immediately obvious is that the physical fitness built from being an athlete allows me to participate in outdoor and rec events with my friends and family which provides even more happiness and further reinforces my fitness and desire to be fit. On the other side of the diagram my mental state of wanting to achieve life long goals and enjoying life’s pleasures like maintaining a certain level of fitness makes it easier for me to want to maintain my community to a certain level as well. This overlap allows me to pursue volunteering more easily because of my state of mind and opens me up to new factors of happiness while reinforcing the rest of the structure.
Try to make your own map and see what you come up with! There are so many different things you could be doing to build your happiness and reinforcing it. Play around and experiment until you find what works for you.
Updating this post with a video from Dr. Lyubomirsky in which she talks about her research first hand.
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