Is your happiness important to you? Of course it is! You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who wasn’t interested in being happy. People often talk about how to “find” happiness—as if it’s a discoverable object you can hold on to after you’ve found it—but the truth is happiness has more to do with genetics and intentional activity than anything else.
The American Dream
Seeking happiness goes back through history: The Declaration of Independence lists “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” as our unalienable rights. The American Dream is arguably based on being happy and having financial success—and many picture the two as inextricably linked. And studies show money can buy happiness—but only to a certain extent. People who have enough money to meet their basic needs are shown to be happier than those who don’t, but research shows that additional income after basic needs are met doesn’t seem to have a lasting effect on happiness. So what does?
The Happiness Breakdown
An entire field of psychology has been devoted to studying happiness—just as people study depression—and some of the top academics have found, through years of research, about 50 percent of happiness is genetic, meaning each person has their own natural level of happiness. Surprisingly, this research found only 10 percent is determined by your current circumstances—where you live, how much money you have, whether you’re married, etc. The theory goes on to suggest the remaining 40 percent is based on “intentional activity.”
Create Your Happiness
Based on this research, perhaps the key to finding happiness isn’t really finding it, it’s creating it. So how do you do that? Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, a top psychologist in the field of happiness, found 12 scientifically-tested activities shown to increase people’s happiness. In an interview with U.S. News, she explains that not all of the activities work for everyone; you have to find the ones that suit you best. Here are the 12 activities Lyubomirsky outlines:
- Discuss, record or show gratitude
- Choose to be optimistic about your future and focus on the positive in any situation
- Don’t dwell on problems or compare yourself to others
- Be kind and show kindness to strangers and loved ones alike
- Heal, nurture and grow your relationships
- Learn how to cope with stress and trauma
- Forgive those who’ve hurt you
- Engage in “flow” (This means a challenging but enjoyable activity you can lose yourself in.)
- Live in the present and enjoy simple pleasures life has to offer
- Pursue and achieve goals
- Engage in religious or spiritual practice
- Take care of your physical well-being
To find out what activities may fit you best, take Lyubomirsky’s “Person-Activity Fit Diagnostic” quiz.