Happiness By The Numbers

smileBabyScientists like Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of “The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want”, tell us that the causes of our happiness can be numbered.  She says that 50% is genetically predetermined.  That’s a scary number for me because my mother is mentally ill and has never been happy a day in her life, as far as I can remember.  Growing up with her was like living with Chicken Little.  The sky was always falling.  Everyone was out to do us wrong.  Nothing I could do was ever right.  Yet now, in my sixties, I am a happy person.  So if you don’t mind I’m going to take a moment to pat myself on the back.  I’ve managed to distance myself from the curse of my genetics.

10% of our happiness comes from circumstances, all those magic moments in life that have made us smile and feel good.  Surprised that is such a small number?  You shouldn’t be.  That’s why the fancy car, big house and all those other things only bring fleeting happiness.  The feelings they bring just don’t last long.

The 40% that is left, that is something each and every one of us intentionally control.  And because we can control our activities and our responses to them, we are able to become happier.  It turns out that we can not only pursue happiness, but we can also catch it and absorb it into our lives.  We can become happier, if we choose to do so.  That has been, and continues to be my choice.  That’s why I’ve signed up for the “Science of Happiness” class that I wrote about yesterday.

Coming up tomorrow:  12 ways to increase your happiness.

Hi.  I’m Chris.  I’m an introvert.  Explore my archives for my writings about introverts, and join my blog for my new series on happiness.  Let your smile change the world.  🙂


11 thoughts on “Happiness By The Numbers

  1. I don’t think that 50% figure is right. What I’ve been told is that circumstances “turn on” the genes. I think habits of feeling play a big role, with greedy little neuropeptides (receptors) all over the body hungering for their match. I think we have a lot of control over that process after we reach adulthood. Are they looking for drama or joy?

  2. Really interested to read this and like you am looking forward to the course. Like you too I had a mum who would I think have looked back on her life and not in the main have described it as a happy one – glass half empty- not quite how it should have been – regrets- depression. So like you I work on the 40 per cent and near 60 with lots of happiness in my life able to look back and feel differently than my mum did. Thanks for your post….

  3. Excellent post. Like you & others have mentioned, Chris, I like to think that the source of happiness is more malleable and not all genetically predetermined (e.g., maybe it’s 25% genetic and 25% learned, aka, “nature or nurture” and then 50% what we make of it all, or free will). Otherwise, with two emotionally troubled parents, dang, I’m doomed! 😉

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