Researchers have focused on questions such as “ what behaviours and attitudes positively affect happiness and self-fulfillment? Can we learn to be happy?
Surprisingly, happiness researcher Sonia Lyubomirsky discovered that only 10% of our happiness is due to our circumstances e.g. whether we are rich or poor, healthy or unhealthy, beautiful or plain, married or divorced etc. The low contribution of circumstances to our happiness level is explained by the principle of hedonic adaptation i.e. in plain English, we get used to even the most marvellous and life changing circumstances , and within about 3 months we hardly notice the difference!
50% of our happiness is in our genetic pre -disposition. So this leaves us with the fact that a very large slice of our happiness levels (40%)is due to the way we think and behave, what Lyubomirsky calls intentional behaviour. And the good news is that we can change these!
Researchers have identified three types of “happy lives”
As Martin Seligman, one of the founders of the positive psychology movement points out, happiness is not simply a matter of adding up our transitory pleasureable moments-other dimensions such as our relationships,sense of meaning, achievement, engagement in what we do, add up to our total feeling of whether we are happy and satisfied with our lives. Seligman calls this wider way of looking at our sense of wellbeing, “flourishing”
And finally, the advice of Ed Diener, happiness researcher: if you have no goal, other than than your personal happiness,you’ll never achieve it! If you want to be happy pursue something else vigorously, and happiness will catch up with you.